The Center for Youth Integration (CYI) is a citizen’s association founded in 2004 by a group of students from the Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation (former Faculty for Defectology) of the University of Belgrade.
We recognized that the problem of street involved children is one of the greatest social problems in our society, while at the same time it is the problem we know very little about. That is why the CYI has targeted this population with its’ activities.
According to the propositions of the Strategic document of the Center for Youth Integration, the CYI is an organization which initiates, carries out and supports responsible societal changes which are aimed at integration of children and youth. It devotes its resources, acting alone or in partnership with others, to protection of the rights of the child; acts in a manner which is in the best interest of children and youth; implements programs and continually improves quality of service with the aim to incite society to behave responsibly towards its each member.
Our continuous activities and cooperation with partners and friends of the CYI programs allowed us to create a system of support for street involved children, which contributes to bettering the quality of life for these children. Such system of support has now gained legal standing which is the results of the initiatives and amendments proposed by the CYI.
According to the UNICEF, in 2003 there were more street involved children in the world than in 1989, when they reported that the number of children living or working on the streets of major cities was around 100 million.
There isn’t one unified and internationally accepted definition of street involved children. Criterion which is used to define this population varies in different societies and also it even varies across different stages of development of the same society. A person falling into the category in a specific society may or may not be considered to be a street involved child in a country with different socio economic context. Also, the status may change in the same country depending on various environmental factors. Hence, it is very difficult to determine the exact number of street involved children.
The ongoing international debate is whatever the number of street involved children has risen or they have only become more visible thanks to the efforts of civil society organizations. The greatest number of street involved children has been noted inRussia,UkraineandRomania. The economic crisis further aggravates already poor socio-economic position of families from which majority of children at risk are. Dependency on social care system is in increase while available resources for direct social aid on national level fail to keep up with the trend of increase in number of poverty stricken people. Children coming from marginalized communities who had not been included into the regular education system are at high risk to become victims of labor exploitation later.
The CYI estimate is that there are several thousand street involved children and youth on the territory of the city of Belgrade as well as of the victims or persons at risk of being victims of labor exploitation.
Even though enviable results have been achieved in the field of social inclusion of these children there are several delicate problems that the CYI encounters. These problems should receive due attention in the future. Unstable financial sources, failure to recognize street involved children as a specific vulnerable group, lack of systemic and sustainable solutions and lack of sensitivity on the side of professional and general public when it comes to this population. Tackling these problems is the basis of the Plan for our future work and activities.
The CYI wants to contribute to creation of the community which has developed mechanisms which would provide each and every individual with all his/her differences with an opportunity to develop his/her personal potentials, and to put them in function of general welfare in accordance with democratic values.