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Street children spend part or all of their time living on the street. They may be orphans or unable to live at home with their families. Street kids earn money and keep themselves alive by doing any jobs they can find, which could even be prostitution or scavenging. Street children are at risk of malnutrition, assault, and disease. They are found all over the world in developing and developed countries.
These kids may be orphans with no one to look after them or separated from their families after a war or natural disaster. Others are runaways, escaping from violence or neglect. Some run away from children's institutions. A family may also have kicked out a child for reasons such as pregnancy or homosexuality.
Another reason for kids to be on the street is that their families may not have enough food or space to give them. Street children may visit home regularly but spend the nights outside. Sometimes, the entire family is homeless.
Children in this situation may earn a living through stealing, selling items to the public, or begging. Some kids sell their bodies for sex or deal drugs. Scavenging for food or for items to sell is another way the kids fend for themselves. They may also provide services such as shoe shining or earn money by entertaining the public through music or similar work.
Without a safe place to live with sanitary facilities, these kids are at risk of assault and infectious disease. If they have trouble earning money, they cannot pay for food or for warm clothes. School uniforms and supplies also generally cost money, so even if the kids want an education, they may not be able to afford the basic equipment necessary. The stress of living a precarious existence can also lead to mental health issues and substance abuse.
Living as a group may be safer than living alone, so kids may band together and watch out for each other. In many countries, charities and governmental organizations run homes for street children. The centers usually offer regular food, a place to sleep, and education. Despite these benefits, children may avoid going there because they are afraid of abuse by the other children or adults at the center. The kids may also prefer to earn money outside on the streets.
According to the World Health Organization, street children are found in both developed and developing countries. Most of the street kids in developed countries are over the age of 12. In developing countries, the children tend to be even younger.