Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
ABSTRACT This article examines the street child phenomenon from an ecological perspective in order to obtain indicators which are important for an intervention plan for street children. The eco logical perspective is utilised as a framework for the investigation since it provides a complete holistic and systematic framework and does not proceed in a linear dimension of merely cause and effect. The advantage of this perspective is that the street child can be considered holistically and that a comp rehensive intervention plan, including every aspect of the child, could be compiled. The literature study focused on four different levels of the ecological perspective, namely the micro, meso, exo and macro-levels, although a detailed discussion of these levels is not included in this article. The empirical investigation exploited quantitative and qualitative research methods. Organisations currently delivering services to street children completed questionnaires that focused on the content of their particular programs. These programs were evaluated against the background of the conceptual framework. Only 21.3% of the organisations returned their responses. The researchers undertook six case studies using qualitative research. In order to ensure that these children were not traumatised through the process of gathering information for the case studies, measures were put in place to provide sufficient support to the participants. Approval for the study was also acquired. The micro-system is based on physiological aspects, cognition, social and emotional aspects, and personality. The street child has usually been exposed to severe trauma and losses. The child is deprived of "normal" family life and interventions are required in order to provide the child with care, healing, development of self, and the building of relationships. In the meso-system, the systems closest to the street child are included, viz. the family, school, and peer group. In this system, it was found that the children had suffered many losses. In particular, there are no family structures in the world of the street child. The school, an important system for the development of the child and for training her/him for the labour market, does not play a role because the street children do not attend school. The peer group has taken over this important role in the child's bonding and support on the street. It was found that the child should receive specific interventions which will stimulate his/her feeling of belonging and will also address education as well as the development of life skills. Regarding the exo-system, specific attention was given to the community, the public, the police services, health, social services, religious institutions, business, and habitat. It was found that this system does not provide sufficient support to the street child. A support system should thus be created as part of the intervention in order to stimulate and support the child's development. The macro-system is, for the purpose of this study, represented by legislation/policies, culture, politics, and religion. In South Africa, the macro-system is directed towards the protection and development of structures and policy with respect to children. The execution of this policy is hampered by deficient manpower and finances. The macro-system must be applied in such a manner that the street child is protected and her/his development facilitated. When analysing the final product it can be concluded that the intervention with the street child ren should be handled by a specialist team, as well as by members of the community. In the micro-system, the interventions should be directed specifically at the micro-system, i.e. care, healing, bond ing with other systems, and the development of the child. Regarding the meso-system, focus should be on development of the feeling of belonging, training, and further develop ment of life skills. Regarding the exo-system, the interventions should be handled by means of a multidisciplinary team as well as community members and resources, all directed to support. The development of the support system will then contribute to creating hope in the child. In the macrosystem the intervention is directed at safeguarding the street child and developing systems and policies which would be advantageous to the street child. The ecological perspective offers a comprehensive framework within which the street child may be treated holistically.
Keywords : Social work; street children; ecological perspective; intervention plan; program indicators; qualitative research; quantitative research; transactions and relationships; losses; support systems.