Attachment intervention through peer-based interaction: Working with Istanbul's street boys in a university setting
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Street youths are a particularly vulnerable group because of early experiences of emotional and physical neglect and abuse which can make them difficult to approach. Traditional interventions such as 1 h weekly therapy sessions do not meet their needs. This article describes a creative and novel approach to the rehabilitation of street children implemented during the To-Gather with Youth Project (TYP) under the aegis of the Research and Application Center to Support Children/Youth Living and Working in the Streets (SOYA) at Maltepe University in Istanbul, running in collaboration with state-run care institutions for boys since 2010. The approach consists of a peer-based supportive model that provides adolescent boys care with emotional and social security through attachment relationships that they develop with university students. The teaching staff and students of the psychology department constitute the core group running the program, which also includes workshops assisted by teachers and students from humanities departments such as philosophy, drama, and radio. These workshops are organized to promote the psychosocial and cognitive development of the participating street boys as well as to enable their direct access to the public through their art and photography. Based on a qualitative analysis of narrative interviews with boys and detailed observational reports by project volunteers, we identify several mechanisms that we believe contribute to change in the boys, including the development of secure attachment relationships with a trusted adult, a child-centered approach, and a socially safe environment created by peer-support in a university setting. The boys and volunteers also reported incidents and feelings that seem to suggest that the boys' have increased their capacity to regulate their emotions, sense of self-esteem and resilience, and desire to develop their lives in the future. This paper offers this intervention as a feasible service model for the rehabilitation of street boys in other cities. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.