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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                             

Republic of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports.

Poverty has remained around 20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Costa Rica.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Bands Of Children Back On Streets In San José

A.M. Costa Rica, May 7, 2002

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Bands of young thieves, called "chapulines" in Spanish, have reappeared on the streets of San José, mostly in the downtown area and mostly at night.  The groups of children number upwards of 30 or more and seem to be directed by adults. Some of the youngsters appear to be only 8 or 9 years old.  The youngsters, mostly homeless children, will use their numbers to steal, to roll unwary passersby and to practice aggressive begging.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - The “National Agenda for Children and Adolescents, 2000-2010,” aims to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor and achieve 100 percent retention of children in basic education by the year 2010.  In addition, the Government of Costa Rica is implementing a national plan to eliminate child labor.  The Government is also providing small loans to families with children at-risk of working.  The Government supports a radio campaign aimed at raising awareness on the plight of street children, and stay-in-school programs are offered to child victims of trafficking.  In April 2004, the government and Save the Children-Sweden launched an awareness-raising campaign against trafficking and exploitation at Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

CHILDREN - The government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that the commercial sexual exploitation of children remained serious problems. PANI estimated that three thousand children suffered from commercial sexual exploitation and street children in the urban areas of San Jose, Limon, and Puntarenas were particularly at risk. During the year PANI reported that it provided assistance to minors in 120 separate cases of commercial sexual exploitation.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3 June 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[51] The Committee regrets the lack of information on street children in the State party’s report, while the occurrence of children living in the street appears to be widespread. The concern is accentuated by the fact that, as indicated by the State party, a high number of street children are addicted to drugs and are victims of sexual exploitation.

Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC) Starts Review Of Report

UN Press Release, HR/CRC/00/9, 14 January 2000

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Concerning street children, the Government had established institutions, which developed alternative living conditions for children in the street and without shelter. The National Children's Trust also played an important role in promoting the welfare of street children through programs of rehabilitation. Already, specific programs had been executed in San Jose and coastal regions to assist street children.

Street Children Transformed Into Ordinary Teens

Jay Brodell, Editor of A.M. Costa Rica, Feb. 26, 2002

[accessed 5 May 2011]

They were society’s rejects. The street children of San José. They generated a feeling of contempt, of pity, perhaps of fear.   When Gail Nystrom began trying to help street children she saw a mass, a swirl of individuals, a cracked-out mass. But soon she began to separate out the individuals.

Solvent based shoe glues as a principal "drug". Company operating without legal permit

Solvent based glues, worse than heroin

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Although they are chemicals, solvent based shoe glues are the principal "drug" of choice amongst the estimated 40 million street children in Latin America. Street children, often as young as just 5 or 6 years old, inhale the potent solvent based glues to try and suppress feelings of hunger, cold and abandonment. The toluene or cyclohexane solvents used in shoe glues cause permanent and irreversible brain damage in the pre-pubescent street children.

Country information: Costa Rica

[accessed 5 May 2011]

COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN IN TOURISM - Children are enticed by promises of well-paid jobs and end up being sexually exploited for commercial gain. The same fate can befall the street children, of which there are estimated to be some 8,000 in San José.

Casa Alianza Report Reveals Challenges Ahead

Tim Rogers, Tico Times, October 02, 2002

[accessed 5 May 2011]

The long-awaited report on the state of Costa Rica's street children revealed shocking statistics and painted a grim picture of the nation's youth.  "This reports details a painful situation," Pacheco said, referring to the statistic of 1,500 children and adolescents living on the streets.  Yet despite the depressing nature of the report, Harris told The Tico Times he was encouraged by the attention that Pacheco and his government are giving to the problem, and remains hopeful that changes will come.

Street Children Campaign Launched In Costa Rica

Inside Costa Rica - Special Reports

[accessed 5 May 2011]

147.000 children in Costa Rica have to work to survive; 280.000 children of school age are not in to school. In the first semester of 2002, the National Children League (PANI) received 11,782 complaints of child abuse.

A Throwaway Generation

Deann Alford in San José, Christianity Today, Vol. 44, No. 5, April 24 2000

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Martha and Angie, both crack addicts, live on the streets of San José. Angie has never attended school and survives through begging. But without intervention, Angie seems certain to suffer the same fate as Martha, who pays for illicit drugs with money from prostitution and theft.

SOS Children in Costa Rica

SOS Children's Villiages

[accessed 5 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

PUERTO LIMÓN - The second Costa Rican SOS Children community opened in 2000 in Puerto Limón on the Caribbean coast, one of poorest parts of the country with many social problems. SOS Children's Village Limón has ten family houses, providing a home for over 100 children and a kindergarten for children between 3 and 6 years old from both the SOS Children's Village and the neighborhood.

Street Children Get A Second Chance

United Bible Societies, Opportunity 21 Progress News Reports

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 5 May 2011]

The Bible Society of Costa Rica is aiming to change the lives of some of the estimated 143,000 street children who work the streets of the capital, San José, and other towns.   The main thrust of this project, which is supported by Opportunity 21, is through a special children’s club called Nofetin (Beehive in Hebrew). The children who attend the club, which was launched last June, are encouraged to act as evangelists, taking the Scriptures to other children.   Selected street children will be given the opportunity to learn to read and write, and will hopefully be able to read the New Testament within a year. They will also be helped to develop useful skills that will enable them to build a better life. The Society hopes that some 300 street children can be re-educated through the project.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children – Costa Rica",, [accessed <date>]