Working with street children
An approach explored
By Andrew Williams

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

Anyone working with street children on a daily basis knows that the work can be worthwhile and at times rewarding; but also finds it frustrating and painful that any child should have experienced what most street children have.

This book's aspiration is to help improve the lives of street children in any part of the world. While acknowledging different views, it is based on the belief that there is sufficient common ground between different cultures and contexts for practitioners in all parts of the world to learn from each other. By providing an analysis of how one approach was tried, tested, improved and expanded through careful and constant attention to reflective analysis and review, it shows how principles can be drawn out which transcend both culture and the practical application of those principles in any one context.

Although not an academic book, it relates theory and insight to pioneering practice, entailing: action-centred learning; starting from commitments to contextual relevance; preparation and sensitivity to cross-cultural work; and a determination to resist the 'ah-but-it'll-never-work-here syndrome'.

It aims to: empower street children through rebuilding lives, restoring dignity and releasing potential; equip and encourage people who work or may work amongst street and homeless children; and inform those in positions of influence.

It does this by highlighting five inter-related aspects or features of an approach that has proved effective. The approach is:
  • holistic
  • relational
  • transitional
  • child-centred
  • professional
  • and built around a conviction that the approach is untenable or weakened if any of these elements is missing or ignored.

  • Incorporating stories, anecdotes, and accounts of how lessons were learnt from both disappointments and achievements, this book can help:
  • strengthen, equip and encourage anyone working with street children
  • inspire and prepare people to start working with street, homeless or abandoned children
  • offer realistic insights to those considering working with street children
  • inform and guide those in management, leadership and governance of organisations working with street children and other categories of children in difficult circumstances
  • urge anyone to act and advocate on behalf of children whose voices are unheard or ignored
  • challenge those in positions of authority and influence to bring about positive change in the lives of street children and the communities to which they belong.

  • Paperback. 176 pages. 978-1-905541-80-5. Published 2011. £14.95.


  • Any practitioner with responsibility for the care, welfare, guidance and empowerment of individual street children and young people including homeless and abandoned children and young people. In different places this might include: social workers, youth workers, counsellors, relational workers, key workers. All can read this book for guidance and reference and to encourage reflective practice
  • Executive staff with responsibility for the development or management of such practitioners
  • Policy-makers, researchers, lecturers, students and libraries that serve them in youth work, social work, counselling
  • Supporters of work amongst street children, homeless, and abandoned children; or children facing difficult circumstances.


    A holistic approach
    Holistic thinking
    Holistic practice
    A relational approach
    Entering the world of street children
    Engaging with street children
    Forming authentic relationships
    Hearing and listening
    Recognising and responding to trauma
    Constructing and testing a hypothesis: making an assessment
    A transitional approach
    Transitional thinking
    Transitional practice
    Drop in centre (The Tigers Clubhouse)
    Transitional education (The Learning Centre)
    Transitional residential care (The Halfway Home - Tudabujja)
    Reconciliation and reunification with relatives (The Resettlement Programme)
    Integration into existing families (The Foster Care Scheme)
    A child-centred approach
    Child-centred thinking
    Child-centred practice
    A professional approach
    Thinking professionally
    Acting professionally
    Getting started
    Branching out
    Key questions and concerns
    A platform created
    Now I see my future


    Andrew Williams
    has twenty years experience of direct work with children and young people. He is co-founder, former CEO and President Emeritus of Retrak, an organisation widely respected for its work amongst street children in Africa. Andrew was born in Uganda, studied at Edinburgh University and for an MSc in Applied Social Studies at Oxford University before qualifying as a probation officer.

    In 1996 Andrew and his wife, Katina, accepted an invitation from Uganda to develop a football club for street boys into a social work organisation. Retrak (formerly known as The Tigers Club Project) was registered in 1997. To widen impact and reflect significant changes, the charity was rebranded and officially launched as Retrak in 2005. Andrew relocated to Kenya to establish a head office in Nairobi and operations began in Ethiopia. In 2006, he was awarded the MBE for services to disadvantaged children in Uganda.

    Andrew moved with his family to the UK in 2008. He is a registered social worker and combines an acting career with consultancy, advocacy, training and support for child-focussed NGOs. He hopes this publication will contribute to fulfilling a vision of a world in which every child has dignity and opportunity and no child is forced to live on the street.


    "Written by the former CEO of Retrak, a UK based organisation doing some inspiring work among street children in Africa… he explores a holistic, relational, transitional, child-centred and professional approach. The holistic chapter is a great reminder of how street children and indeed the young people we work with respond out of their life experience. The transitional chapter also challenges practitioners to thing beyond the immediate, day-to-day and be sure of what direction we are taking our young people... an introductory text book to a brilliant approach drawing on lots of wisdom and experience." Youthwork.

    "Andrew Williams utilises an approach to working the street children originally modelled in Uganda. This book leaves the conviction that global workers could learn from each other... invaluable for experienced and 'would-be' practitioners... a valuable contribution to a heartbreaking universal problem." Christianity.