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Homeless Children: The Lives of a Group of Brazilian Street Children
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Aim. To evaluate the life trajectories of a group of school-age street children frequenting two São Paulo city public shelters.

Background. A large proportion of the Brazilian child population suffers extreme disadvantage, although the Brazilian government gave the issue 'absolute priority' in 1990. Maternal and Under 5 mortality rates remain unacceptably high. In the metropolitan region of São Paulo an estimated 200 000 minors do not live with their mothers. Brazilian street children live lives of extreme personal and social risk.

Study method. The data were collected through individual, semi-structured interviews, with 14 school age (7–12 years) participants frequenting two city public refuges, with their legal guardians' consent. Data analysis was based on Social Representation Theory and used content analysis.

Findings. The children's most meaningful experiences were grouped into the thematic categories of family, the street, friends, drugs, the police, the shelters and the future. Synthesis of these categories showed the lives of these children to be permeated by violence, resulting in experiences restricting their full development.

Conclusion. The solution to their problems depends on pressure being put on the State by the civilian community in order to establish social and health policies that conform to the Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA). We consider that assisting street children involves attitudes that go beyond professional performance and demands acts of citizenship.

Recommendations. The development of an ethical-political attitude by professionals to the problems of homeless street children is essential, and educational curricula should be appropriately constituted. Political projects to develop health and welfare policies and education should be directed to these children and their relatives, and include participation by health professionals to provide the necessary preventive and curative services. (Authors)
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