Dealing with streetkids
Last Friday’s roundup or “rescue” of 45 streetchildren, many of them sniffing rugby and loitering under bridges in barangays Mabolo and Banilad was in the headlines, but it wasn’t rare sight in Cebu City.
One just has to look around uptown or downtown streets, especially at night. Minors stretched out on the pavement or dozing off in between bouts of play underscore Cebu City’s urban status as having the second most number of streetchildren in the country.
Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, who led social workers and police in the surprise roundup/rescue, capped off his summary of the operation to reporters by emphasizing the need to build a facility to house streetchildren on a 24-hour basis.
It’s belated attention to the problem but it’s still an overdue priority.
The Parian Drop-in Center, which was a first of its kind when it was set up in 1991, is not intended to be a dormitory for runaways. It offers a safe but temporary haven for street kids in the middle of downtown
As a first stop for relief and assistance, it needs the support of a network of NGOs , benefactors and the city government to keep operating effectively as a stopover for disadvantaged children before they are directed to a comprehensive development program or returned to their families.
That kind of full-hearted attention from City Hall has been missing over the years, most likely because the chief advocate and pioneer, Councilor Margot Osmeña, isn’t the best of friends of the mayor.
It’s sad to think that politcal undercurrents can undermine an institution.
Over the years, thinning government suppport for the Pari-an Drop-in center has forced the Children of Cebu Foundation, which Osmeña heads, to let go of well-trained child development workers.
And now the problem of street children has become more complex.
Delinquent minors are not just neglected and left on streets to fend for themselves; they are recruited and used by crime groups, seduced into an underworld lifestyle that starts with the dangerous pasttime of sniffing glue.
The need is no longer that of a day shelter to house streetkids but a facility with full services to handle the varied needs of children in conflict with the law. There are young perpetrators with drug habits, and wounded, abandoned minors. There are innocent witnesses to a crime, who need to be supported throughout a trial, and there are pre-teens walking aimlessly in the street trying to find a way out of poverty. Services require more than feeding, cleaning up and profiling a child after his or her “rescue”.
Vice Mayor Labella recognizes the scale of the work ahead. We hope the solutions cut across party lines considering the problem is big enough for everyone to share.
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