Contrary to popular belief, research shows that more than 80% of street children have close contacts with their families. As the agencies that work with homeless children have learned this fact, they have wisely decided to work less with shelters and more with parents.
It is easy to condemn these families: many are abusive, some exploit their children as street vendors or prostitutes, and few provide structure or discipline, but experience has shown that trying to "fix" these families to make them conform to a middle-class norm helps neither them nor their children. Fortunately, several grass roots programs have found another option: by repecting the families, they find hidden strengths. They help parents express their love. They show families how to use community networks for support: friends, grandparents, local youth groups. They also show everyone that diverse families -- single mothers, gay parents, prostitutes, two parent families can be and often are good and supportive parents.
For the ACJ in Bogotá and Intercalle in Montevideo, this model has transformed the lives of street children and their families. Shine a Light helped these programs to document their work through research, video, interviews, essays, and lesson plans and then distributed the results as an interactive DVD-based curriculum. In this way, hundreds of organizations around Latin America will be able to improve their support for street children and their families.
The report from the project is available here.
Films from the Iniciative for Diverse Families, Bogotá:
This project was made possible by many small donors and by a grant from the Georges Lurcy Trust.