A study of shelters for street children from an organizational perspective : the views and experiences of managers, staff and children in selected Durban shelters.
The phenomenon of children living and/or working on the streets is universal, in particular in developing countries in Africa including South Africa. Causal factors are complex, multidimensional and inter-related and are mainly social and economic. They impact on three social institutions: school, community and family, which are the primary agents of socialisation. Children living and/or working on the streets are exposed to hazardous challenges: diseases; poor health; poor living conditions; crime and violence; arrest and incarceration; alcohol abuse; drug and sexual abuse; poor and exploitative working conditions. Consequently, they learn and internalise the survival culture as a coping mechanism. They suffer socio-economic exclusion in that living on the streets excludes them from participating meaningfully in life of mainstream society. The exclusion is derived from the general public's perception of children living and/or working on the streets, which is derived and shaped by media and sees them as criminals or in need of care. Society responded to the challenges of the phenomenon through shelter programs of intervention and reintegration. However, the efforts of NGOs and shelters have become inconsequential due to the rising numbers and increase their population. This intensifies demands on existing facilities and resources. Research on shelters did not gain any momentum comparative to studies on causative factors of the phenomenon. This situation plausibly could have arisen due to society's acceptance that shelters intervention and reintegration programs were adequately meeting and addressing the plight of children living and/or working on the streets. Yet shelters viewed as human service organisations have their organisational procedures and structures, which either hinder or facilitate the intervention and reintegration of children into the mainstream society. This study focuses on four shelters for children living and/or working on the streets in Durban. Social exclusion and/organisation theories informed the theoretical framework of the research. The enquiry applied a qualitative paradigm whereby individual interviews with shelter managers were conducted. Focus group discussions were conducted each separately with staff and children from the four shelters. The technique revealed valuable information about the experiences of children, staff and shelter managers as they interact and interface in the course of providing and receiving shelters services and in the implementation of intervention and reintegration programs.
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