Children on the Streets of the Americas: Homelessness, Education, and Globalization in the United States, Brazil, and Cuba

By Roslyn Arlin Mickelson | Go to book overview

Foreword

Marian Wright Edelman

One of the most disturbing problems facing the global village as it lurches toward the twenty-first century is the tragedy of homeless children. Unlike some aspects of poverty such as inadequate education, nutrition, and medical care, homelessness is all too visible, its adult and sometimes child victims frequently found on the streets of the poshest of urban shopping districts. And while there may be many among the well-housed who are quick to attribute the homelessness of adults to these individuals’ short-comings and failures, even the most heartless cannot blame a homeless child for his or her situation. However, the blamelessness of these children and the visibility of their plight has yet to evoke a comprehensive public policy response in the United States, Brazil, and many other countries.

As someone who had taught and traveled throughout the United States and worked with homeless children in North Carolina, Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, the editor of this fine volume, was no stranger to this devastating problem. But it is doubtful this compilation would have ever been conceived—let alone produced—were it not for the incident she recounts in the introductory chapter about her first night in Rio de Janeiro. Just as that incident 8,000 miles from home made her think more sharply about her experiences in the United States, I believe this book will help all of us focus more clearly on the plight of homeless and street children.

Children on the Streets of the Americas shows us the face of homelessness in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. The United States is the quintessentially developed country, while Brazil is the rapidly developing one; both are characterized by concentrations of extreme affluence and extreme poverty. Cuba is much poorer than either Brazil or the United States, but some indicators of child and adult well-being surprisingly surpass those of the other two. Whatever the differences among the three, they all are affected by the increasingly globalized economy. These similarities and differences shape the contours of homelessness in the three countries. In the best traditions of comparative sociology and public policy research, this book describes these contours and draws inferences about appropriate responses by both the public and private sectors.

Homeless and street children are, in the final analysis, extremely poor children. It thus makes little sense to talk about such children, and policies to address their educational and social needs, without talking about poverty in each of the three countries and how poverty is affected by worldwide economic developments and the policies of agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As a result, macrosolutions—government policies aimed at alleviating poverty and its consequences—emerge as the sine qua non of any comprehensive attempt to address the problems of homeless children.

As a supplement to such comprehensive macrosolutions, and in the absence of such attempts (an all-too-frequent state of affairs), microsolutions are also important. The case studies in Parts III and IV do an especially effective job of exploring why some short-term or micropolicies are more effective than others. And this is where education has an important role to play in the lives of homeless and street children.

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