Frontline youth workers are critical to an effective community and organizational response to street children and youth, one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in Nepal and globally. As employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these workers engage street young people in both street- and center-based settings to offer services aimed at increasing their "wellbeing and healthy development." This dissertation explored, examined, and analyzed how NGOs (and by extension their international funders), workers, and young people understood and influenced this frontline youth work practice in Kathmandu, Nepal. The study used a mixed-method qualitative research. Data were collected from 24 frontline youth workers, eight management level staff, and 23 street youth. Workers viewed street young people as both victims and deviants, who were partly responsible for their own victimization and future life-outcomes. A primary approach used to help young people "fix" their problems and themselves as "problems" was "socialization." In practice, this was a form of social control. As young people transitioned from a street outreach program to a drop-in center and then to a transition home, there was an increase in the workers' control of these young people's activities, choices, and even voices. Child rights and their participation were emphasized in theory, while in practice participation was workers' manipulation and tokenism rather than youth-driven and youth/adult equity (Hart, 1992). These NGOs were the only agencies that offered services to street young people. They worked with little support from government and in an environment of public distrust and financial uncertainty. A powerful influence to their work was their international donor agencies that, as part of their funding to NGOs, guided and shaped the street level understanding and practice of frontline youth work. At another level, NGOs influenced this work by teaching workers their roles and work and by requiring them to show outputs. At the individual level, unethical practices of some workers further alienated young people from mainstream society and damaged their own and their agencies' reputation. Overall, workers and their agencies were doing good work, particularly in the context of many obstacles. However, no discernable effort was being made to confront the larger, complex, social institutional sources of what is the "street children" social problem. No one - neither government, nor NGOs and international organizations - had named fully or even begun to take this on. Frontline youth work was not a solution to the "street children problem." It was a small band-aid on a larger, deeper cut.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2012. Major: Social Work. Advisor: Michael Baizerman. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 263 pages, appendices 1-3.
Frontline youth work with street children and youth in Nepal: edge work, boundary work, hard work.
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