Home Institution

Occidental College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development


There are eight million children on the streets of Brazil. As a result of this alarming statistic the study of street children has increased. However, literature on the matter assumes a deficit view of these children, emphasizing the social and developmental aspects of their suffering. While it is essential to identify the origins and consequences of becoming a street child, it is equally as crucial to identify factors within the environment that help impoverished children to build resilience against the many stressful events that accompany their reality. Hence, instead of continuing the trend of investigating the role that inadequate education, poverty, and parental neglect play in the rising number of Brazilian street children, the present research study explores how social support networks diminish an impoverished child’s vulnerability to adopt the streets as his home and to become involved in illicit activities. It further questions how such networks serve to strengthen the relationships of resiliency which contextualize the daily experiences of these children. Through semi-structured interviews, standardized observations, and daily, unstructured observations this study examines the social support activities offered at Instituto Povo do Mar (IPOM), a non-government organization situated in the Serviluz neighborhood of Fortaleza-CE, Brazil, as a response to the high number of Brazilian children on the streets. Participant responses and first-hand field observations were analyzed and compared over a period of three weeks. Taken together, these findings outline IPOM’s views on the following: factors influencing children to trade their home life for a life on the streets, the meaning of street life for a child, the prevalence of street children in Serviluz, and the significance and importance of social support. Specifically, these findings suggest that IPOM’s social support efforts are preventative. By targeting children that are not yet living on the streets and by its group-oriented rather than individual-oriented pedagogy, IPOM seeks to diminish the amount of time a child spends on the streets. These findings further suggest that through experiential educational classes such as Maracatu and English Language learning IPOM provides instrumental, informational, emotional, and appraisal social support to the children in the Serviluz community.


Community-Based Research | Inequality and Stratification | Juvenile Law | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


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