Jessica R. Monteiro

Jessica R. Monteiro

University of Rhode Island



Mentor: Clifford J. Wirth Associate Professor, Political Science

Street Children of Mexico City

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that there are at least 40 million street children worldwide; 25 million of them are found on the streets of Latin America. One of the most important social problems among Latin American countries is the growing number of children seeking their survival on city streets. Street children are defined in two categories: minors who earn their living by working on the streets or as children who reside on the street.

This project employs a qualitative research method, more specifically an ethnographic approach. This approach involves fifteen interviews in Mexico City in July 1997, including city council members, social workers and public officials. This analysis is also based on reports and studies by council members, newspaper articles and scholarly literature.

This project examines the conditions, problems, and programs designed to assist street children. The main focus of the research is on the economic situation of street children, and the governmental and non-governmental programs which house, educate, and care for them. This study hypothesizes that the vast majority of street children in Mexico City retain some form of contact with their family. In most cases, economic factors are cited by the children as the reason for leaving home or school to work in the streets.

This research reveals that street children are facing risks such as indifference, drug addition, violence and lack of genuine affection. They are victimized by adults, and few perceive the police as their protectors. Most commonly they refer to being beaten, mugged or having their money or goods stolen. The analysis also reveals that most street children are denied full access to the basic human needs of housing, nutrition, safety, education, nurture and hope.

This study provides some useful recommendations for improving the programs of street children in Mexico City.

« View 1997 McNair Scholars