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Square holes for round pegs: "street" children's experiences of social policy processes 2002-2005 in Puebla City, Mexico

Thomas de Benitez, Sarah (2008) Square holes for round pegs: "street" children's experiences of social policy processes 2002-2005 in Puebla City, Mexico. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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A growing body of sociological and anthropological literature recognizes 'street children' as a socially constructed category. Social policy research highlights the dynamic and political nature of policy-to-intervention processes. Children who live on urban streets ostensibly benefit from a range of social interventions, but street children as targets of social policy are under-researched. This thesis explores experiences of 'street' children in their take-up of social Interventions and the policies that lie behind them. Adopting a layered case study approach, focused on Puebla City, Mexico, between 2002 and 2005, I used qualitative research methods (interviews, observation, documentation) to build a rich picture of social policy processes through exploring experiences of 24 street-living children, families, service providers and policy-makers. This thesis argues that government research and policies relating to Puebla City constructed simplistic notions of 'street children' as children whose lives play out on the streets. My findings suggested public spaces occupied a limited part of children's lives while street-living children and their families remained connected, but social interventions proved resistant to reuniting them. Specialist NGO interventions appeared to provide a better 'fit' for street-living children and families than interventions designed for larger populations of vulnerable or deviant children. Unregulated self-help groups were left, unsuccessfully, to bridge the gap of treatment for child substance abuse. My thesis suggests that social policy processes construct and then deconstruct 'street children' to fit available social interventions, disregarding children's experiences and outcomes, forcing street-living children (round pegs) into social interventions designed for other populations (square holes). This distorts higher order policy goals with the stated aim of including children in mainstream society; with the illusory benefit of saving resources in the short term but with further exclusionary effects for street-living children. Recommendations include recognizing children as service end-users, and acknowledging families and service providers as key stakeholders.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Public and Social Welfare, Latin American Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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