Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Janice Harper

Committee Members

Rebecca Klenk, Hector N. Qirko


This ethnographic investigation of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS) questions the cultural appropriateness of its policies and practices. By situating CAS in a historical context of colonialism and structural adjustment reforms, I show how it is responsive to a legitimating environment that consists of private donors, international finance institutions, and the Ghanaian government, all of which put pressure on CAS to specifically target "street children" and to adopt a policy of choice that places primary responsibility for development on the individual child. I argue that the legitimating environment is neoliberal in orientation, especially with respect to who is identified as a recipient of aid and what type of aid the recipient should receive, and which is further connected to a global transformation in representation from the street child as innocent victim to one who is more like an adult and so responsible for his or her own choices. Through an analysis of the perspectives of CAS’s own fieldworkers, I argue that the conceptualization of street children as "miniature adults" promotes policies that help only more advantaged street children, masks social inequalities, and does not include children’s support networks in a formulation of aid. Based on my findings, I recommend a more participatory approach that includes fieldworkers’ ideas and perspectives in the design and implementation of CAS policies.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Anthropology Commons