Research of street-involved children and youth in Sub-Saharan Africa has largely
focused on urban centers.
This dissertation is a secondary analysis of formative evaluation
data gathered in May and June 2014 by Maua Methodist Hospital to inform the planning and
development of a rescue and rehabilitation project for children and youth living on the streets
of semi-rural Meru County, Kenya. Qualitative and quantitative methods were employed to
1) community perceptions surrounding why children and youth migrate to the street
and adoption or fostering of children and youth living on the street and
2) the health risk and protective factors of street-involved children and youth on the streets of two major towns.
Community members identified multiple ecological levels of influence, including
intrapersonal, interpersonal, household, peer, community and environmental factors
contributing to children and youth’s migration to the streets. Regarding reasons for and
against adoption of street-involved youth, community members discussed immediate
financial barriers and interpersonal conflicts between spouses and other household members,
immediate material and emotional benefits to the adopted child as well as the household,
long term positive outcomes for the family following adoption and long term negative
outcomes for the community if children were left on the street. Results of the surveys with
children and youth identified a high prevalence of adverse childhood events and poor
psychosocial health. Orphan status, specifically maternal and double orphanhood, may be a
risk factor for adverse childhood events and depression. Implications for program planners
and community stakeholders and leaders are discussed.