Surveys of street children
Children who may live and work on the streets with no fixed place of usual residence cannot be covered through a household-based child labour survey. Certain activities of children can prove difficult to quantify through sample surveys; for example, prostitution, trafficking and other illegal activities are not easy to investigate given that, for the most part, such activities are hidden. A purposive or convenience survey approach may have to be used to collect qualitative information. It may be possible to contact a few of the children involved in these activities who are willing to be interviewed. However, much information can be gathered through the "key informants" system - contacting and interviewing knowledgeable persons in the community where the activities are known to exist. The investigators would have to be sociologists, psychologists, and social workers.
Questions addressed to youths in the streets should relate to most of the variables directed at the children aged 15 years mentioned under the household-based survey. Additionally, street children should be asked to provide information on their migration status and reasons for being homeless or for coming to the present place, on living conditions (food, sleeping places and facilities, health and safety), on the background characteristics of their parents/guardians and siblings, on whether or not they are in regular contact with their parents/guardians and/or siblings, on their present difficulties or problems, and on their prospects or plans for the future.
Operational difficulties in collecting data on street children
The actual fieldwork for collecting data from street children may be operationally difficult within the general framework of a survey. The investigators may have to visit the spots or places where the groups gather, perhaps late at night. There may even be some resistance from the group and in some cases it may even be dangerous to visit such spots for survey purposes. If so, help should be sought from local influential persons, social workers and the like, and sometimes even from police personnel.
The first operational step in the survey of street children is to identify the different places in the city (included in the geographical coverage of the survey) where groups of street children usually gather to sleep. This has to be done through local enquiries of social workers, law enforcement officers and so on. After identifying these spots, a sampling of them can be undertaken if they are numerous, but otherwise they should all be surveyed.
If a city has a large number of such places where street children gather, an alternative procedure could be to survey those which fall in the areal units selected for the household survey in the city. But since such places are not generally uniformly spread throughout the city, this scheme may not cover enough sample spots for the survey unless a special stratification is adopted. Therefore, as suggested earlier, an initial identification of such spots and a sampling of them (if necessary) may be more fruitful, particularly when such a survey cannot aim at statistical estimates for a larger geographical area.
In the selected spots, a complete enumeration of all the children can be attempted if their number is small. The children congregating at a particular place may often be homogeneous with respect to their activities and, therefore, if there is a large number of children in a given spot, a sample can be selected. To draw the sample, a list of all the children has first to be drawn up. Each child in the sample can then be interviewed to fill out the questionnaire. However, a survey of street children would have a number of limitations:
As far as possible, interviewers of street children should be those who are reasonably acquainted with the areas and streets where the children are usually found, who may even know some of the children themselves, and who are well trained in putting the children at ease, for example by providing them with soft drinks.
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