Children in all circumstances deserve to be healthy, to be safe and protected, to be educated, and to have some level of opportunity for their future. We see in these marginalized demographics the absence of one or, most often, more of these basic rights. Yet these four elements can provide a common platform of aspiration for all sectors.
Who, then, are these children lying outside the fabric of social protection and opportunity? Who are the invisible? This chapter examines the scope of the problem, and identifies the millions of children that fall outside the reach of any support system, including children in extreme poverty, those living on the streets, refugees and internally displaced children, and so on. Also examined are the basic conditions that can lead to these conditions, often grounded within a child’s first five years.
In the end, there can be no true counting of the number of children we cannot see. Categories overlap. A street-connected child, for example, may be engaged in exploitive or hazardous labor, be uneducated, and be a victim of domestic violence. He or she might run afoul of the law and end up incarcerated. But despite the inexact nature of these figures, they are comprised of real children and young people. And the figures, however they are counted, are vast.
Chapter 2: Hiding in Plain Sight