Abstract: Re-Conceptualization of Hope: Street Children's Lived Experiences and Narratives (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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430P Re-Conceptualization of Hope: Street Children's Lived Experiences and Narratives

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Dieuveut Gaity, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, NY
Background and Purpose: Amidst poverty and social inequalities, street children have emerged as a complex phenomenon to be explored at a demographic, conceptual, theoretical, and empirical level. Numerous studies have examined street children’s lives using pathogenic perspectives such as epidemiology, problems, and risks (i.e., substance use, mental health, sexual risks, and problem behaviors). Instead of problems and weaknesses, this qualitative paper focuses on a strength-based perspective and addresses aspects of street children’s positive development in relation to their hope for the future while exploring possibilities for future research to invest more in the study of protective and resilient qualities of vulnerable groups. Thus, the purpose of this presentation is to discuss the re-conceptualization of hope in a poverty-related context.

Methods: Based on a phenomenological approach, an in-depth, semi-structured, and open-ended interview guide was used with 25 street children (ages 14 to 17) in Haiti to capture their lived experiences, relations, time, and space through various narratives that depicted the development of their hope. The participants were recruited through convenience sampling techniques. Appropriate ethical approval was obtained from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as from the State University of Haiti (UEH). After transcription of the interviews, data management and analysis (coding process, query and network analysis of quotations, and matrices) were conducted manually. The analysis and interpretation of data were guided by the conservation of resources, resilience, and social disorganization theories to explain the new waves of characteristics of hope that emerged in a poverty-related context among street children.

Results: The findings establish a re-conceptualization of hope through its definition, characteristics, and typology. First, the findings suggest that hope is not only a construct. Hope is also a way of life that is associated with the lived experiences of actual individuals and their life narratives. Second, hope is non-secular. Notions of spirituality, religiosity, and divinity/deity are strongly emphasized in the findings. Third, hope is not apolitical. The macro-system, especially politics and social structures, influences the fluctuations of hope on a continuum. Fourth, hope is both individual and relational. The relational aspect of hope is as crucial, if not more, as the individual-centered hope. Fifth, hope is existential and is considered as the core element in the survival mode– survival attitudes, behaviors, and practices– of street children.

Conclusion and Implications: This paper provides new avenues for researchers to de-construct and re-construct their worldviews, conceptualization, and theorization on individuals and their hope for the future. This paper will also contribute to the array of literature on street children by focusing on the strengths of this population while challenging the ideas and perspectives that we nurture in contemporary society regarding the welfare of the individuals as a mere skin-bounded entity. This will encourage us to cultivate innovative practice modalities and political actions that promote both individual and community well-being as they are systematically interconnected.