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Santos: Integrated Children's and Family Program

Keywords: Social Exclusion/Integration
Community Participation & Urban Governance


The Santos integrated Children's and Family program consists of a broad result-oriented program for poor and excluded children in this half a million inhabitant city and major Latin-American port. The actions are integrated, the solutions are tailored to specific needs of children, the city actors in general are called to participate. Communications on the program are controlled by the children. Information flows have been organized between the concerned instituitions. Private sector and community organizations help coordinating and funding the activities. The overall results are helping to create a new culture and a more humane environment.


Over the last six years, the municipality of Santos has been developing a number of projects aimed at children and the family, coordinating initiatives in various areas, like health, education, culture, sports and advocacy. These integrated and sustained projects are changing the situation of children in the city.

Taken toghether, the programs organized in Santos are essentially a new way, coordinated, flexible and result oriented, of executing relatively traditional child and family welfare programs. A reliable system of information about the situation of children was created, and this allows action to be focused and, above all, it means that the agencies are forced to organize around practical results. This involves both the internal efficiency of each agency and inter-agency cooperation. Community organizations and partnerships with social players in the city ensure that the pressure of "demand" from the users is felt by the whole system, forcing it to adopt measures that work. Finally, rapid communication with city residents allows the gradual creation of a new local culture on children's problems. And, in a way, as the family environment and the child are valued, basic social values are reaffirmed. Th practical results are manifest, in the last analysis, in the substantial reduction in rates of infant mortality, school drop-out and failure, and the systematic reducion of the number of children at risk.

Santos is a city of half a million inhabitants located 65 km south of Sao Paulo. It is known for being the largest port in Latin America, and is also an important center for tourism. The metropolitan area of Santos has 1.2 million inhabitants and a local product of around 6 billion dollars. The large port area, intensive tourism and the proximity of the huge urban area of Sao Paulo, with 16 million inhabitants, mean that the problem of children who are poor or in situations of risk is particulaly important in the region.

In this context, it is particularly important that a municipal government rolled up its sleeves and plunged into the struggle to defend the family and children, using local instruments until solutions of national scope are developed. Actually, Santos'experience shows that local initiative has an enormous potential that is often underestimated.

Beginning in 1989, the municipal government expanded and created programs aimed at children. A broad and diversified program of services was begun for street children. from 1993 on, with the present administration of Mayor David Capistrano, a doctor specialized in sanitation, these initiatives were organized into integrated and sustained programs involving community organizations, business leaders, volunteers and other municipal governments of the metropolitan area.


Program for neonates at risk: following early detection of children at risk in the maternity wards right after birth, the polyclinic staff is alerted and develops a program to assist these children and reduce the infant mortality rate. The program includes pediatrics, immunization, regular visits to the family, encouragemente of breastfeeding, follow-up when children are hospitalized. Specialized care for pregnant women at risk, especially adolescents, is provided at the woman's home at any hour of the day. This has contributed to reducing the infant mortalizty rate from 34 per thousand live births in 1990 to 22 in 1994.

Home Care Program: Medical care at home for cases that would normally require hospitalization makes it possible for the child to remain with the family.

Care for HIV-positive children: The municipal program for prevention and treatment of AIDS does early diagnose and provides integrated care. It also carries out a permanent prevention program, together with the Secretariat of Education.

Mental Health: The municipal government currently has two centers for children's self-esteem that provide multidisciplinary services to children with problems at school and who have been ill-treated.

Dental Health: This includes controls over the concentration of fluoride in drinking water and supervised brushing and fluoride mouthwashes in the municipal and state school systems, reaching about 50,000 children. The index of decayed teeth lost or filled in children up to 12 years old, went down from 5.1 in 1989 to 3.5 in 1993 and 1.7 in 1995. This rate is better than the WHO goal of 3 by the year 2000. The average in Brazil is 6.7 and in the State of Sao Paulo 6.4.


Since 1989 the Municipal Secretariat of Education has been trying to reduce the drop-out and failure rates and intensify participation in school administration. Special classes considered to be discriminatory were replaced with "support classrooms".

Starting in 1993, the number of schools was reduced to increase the number of hours the students stayed at school and improve the quality of teaching. Two thousand new places were created at the same time. Municipal school teachers participate in ongoing training schemes.

The Happy Holiday Program, involving about 4000 children, is organized during vacations, with sports and cultural activities and ecological tours. Most students'parents work and do not have time off during this period of the year. All the municipal secretariats related to social welfare are involved in the activities, together with community organizations.

Action taken at municipal level created a differential from the state school system. Municipal primary schools have 19,000 students, while state schools have 32,000. In the state schools, the drop-out rate was 11.91% in 1994. In the municipal system, only 0.68%. For this reason, a joint program was created, involving both the Municipal and the State Secretariats of Education, as well as community organizations.

In June 1995 the city launched the "Every Child In School" program to ensure that Santos residents have access to, stay in and are sucessful in school at least through the first 8 years; the program combats both the tendency to drop out and child labor.

The program is made up of activities within and outside schools. In the first phase, of active search, all children and adolescents who had left school in 1994 were visited. Trained by the Program coordinators, 150 volunteers visited the families of 1,750 children and youth who had left school or ran the risk of dropping out.

The program has also advanced with a series of awareness-building activities with teachers, stimulating them to provide remedial classes and mobilizing individual and institutional volunteers, like unions, churches and others. Thses support centers provide services to 490 children.


Among other activities, the Sports Schools are important, involving 4,000 children and using city facilities or hiring them from other organizations. The Scretariat of Sports periodically organizes "play streets" that attract children to different recreational activities. Priority has been given to areas with few options for leisure activities and children with weak links to the formal life of the city.

The work in this area is oriented by the creation of an environment "rich" in culture and accessible to children. The Municipal Secretariat of Culture provides these activities to about 5,000 children a month. Besides this, it works in partnership with other municipal secretariats and somo projects have gained prominence, such as the Street Dance Group, which won two national festivals.


This project for children and adolescents in especially dificult situations is a pedagogical complex aimed at changing the lives of street children and of girls who are victims of prostitution and at combating child labor.

All of the activities begin in the children's current environment, to create bonds of trust, begin a pedagogical process and encourage the emergence of life plans.

The service system has the following mechanisms:

Child Hot Line: A staff of educators provides round-the-clock support and responses to the community's initiatives of solidarity, providing information about children that need support. There is a shelter for these children, if they wan to use it.

Shelter: short-term shelter where children can be fed and receive first aid. The first step taken, whenever possible, is to return them to their families. Of the 1,530 children who have stayed at the shelter, 198 went back to their families.

Street Educators: A group of educators circulates throughout the city. It creates bonds with the children, runs sports activities and takes children into the shelter.

Generation 2001 Experimental School: There are "capoeira" lessons, silkscreen, painting, sculpture, ballet and sports workshops. The students publish a newspaper.

Joao Caetano and Vila Mathias Houses: Two houses for children who, because they have broken their relations to their families, need complete care. The children receive medical and dental care and are educated to change their habits. Currently, these children attend school 80% of the time. This complete basic care is provided to 55 children and adolescents. Of these, 84% completed their school year with success in 1995.

Beginning to Work: this program is dedicated to job training for adolescents, with computer and other courses. With the support of local business, 23 adolescents have jobs and their progress and rights as workers are respected. One example of this project is at the open-air markets, with 152 adolescents who carry bags. They were organized, and given uniforms and carts. The link to the informal labor market is not broken, it is organized, and this organization gradually leads to school, to job training, and eventually to jobs in the formal sector.

Girls of Santos Project: Aimed at girls who are sexually exploited or risk becoming prostitutes, this project contacts the girls and children and directs them to the Casa do Trem Social Center, which has a beauty parlor, holds workshops on sexuality, provides help with school homework and training for other suitable jobs. Of the 170 girls on the rolls, 80 regularly go the Casa do Trem and have 85% of school attendance. Eight already have jobs.

Radio Muleke (Radio Kd): A one-hour, weekly AM radio program with a large audience. The themes of programs, reporting and voices all belong to children. The idea of a radio program is to give them a vioce and improve the educational process. As in football games, those who miss school receive a "yellow card" and are suspended from the program. The program has had national repercussion as it shows to what extent the media are important to develop a feeling of existing, of "belonging" to society in these young people.

Social Centers: A network of six cultural and sports centers and a toy library located in the poorest neighborhoods of the city serve 3,000 children who are somewhat at risk, providing tutoring and other preventive actions.

Be a Guardian Angel Campaign: On 12 October 1994 this campaign was begun in partnership with the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Municipal Council of the rights of Children and adolescents and the ABRINQ foundation (a business non-profit organization) and with radio stations and TV-Tribuna. More than 600 people called in, were invited to participate as volunteers, to contribute to the apprenticeship and Job Exchange Program, contribute financially or, after a strict evaluation, adopt children.

The main idea of this project is to promote children's development, a journey that goes from the street, prostitution or work to the school and the family. The project has cooperation agreements with UNICEF, Norway's Emmanuel House, Poiesis Association and the business community.


Santos has two Guardian Councils (legal guardians and caretakers of the rights of children) elected by the citizenry and has instituted practically all of the mechanisms provided for by the Children's and Adolescents'Act. It therefore responds to demands from surrounding areas and activities have had to be expanded. In June 1995 the first Metropolitan Covenant for Children was signed. Through this agreement, the 9 mayors of the Santos metropolitan region commit themselves to inaugrating their Guardian Councils, drafting their goals in the areas related to children and reaching them.


Santos has now taken one more step forward with the creation of the Program for Family Support aimed at preventing child labor. On a temporary basis, it provides families with resources to keep children in school, intensifies communication and popular participation to reinforce social values and forms a genuine culture of respect for children in the city.


Infant mortality rate reduced from 34 per thousand live births in 1990 to 22 per thousand in 1994.

Index of decayed teeth lost or filled in children up to 12 years old reduced from 5.1 in 1989 to 3.5 in 1993 and 1.7 in 1995.

School capacity for basic education (eight years) raised by 7,000 between 1993 and 1996.

Drop-out rate; 0.68% in Santos municipal schools, as compared to 4.8% in Sao Paulo municipal schools, and 11.91% in State of Sao Paulo schools.


The Santos program for children has adopted the guidelines of the Children's And Adolescents' Act, which provides a clear legal and institutional framework for the activities.

On the other hand, the sustainability of the Santos experience results from a very realistic set of principles that have guided practically every action:

1 - Children's problems are being faced holistically: for children, health, education, income, safety are not separate domains. As a result, the environment created for children is being developed in an integrated way.

2 - Each child is regarded as an individual: excessively overarching policies to reach "categories", that do not pay attention to individual problems, do not have good results. In the last instance, a child captured by the machinery of prostitution or drugs, who is a victim of labor exploitation or has been abandoned by his or her parents, generates a set of problems and values that require specific solutions. As a result, policies are being organized according to types of problems, but action is going through the capillaries of the body politic, reaching individuals, groups and the community.

3 - Children are taking an active part in the process: they are not being "assisted" in the traditional sense. The process of rebuilding self-esteem and reconstructing forms of relating to life require that they take conscious attitudes. Children have had a chance to evaluate and to criticise the programs, incorporating them into their culture and making them more permanent.

4 - All the range of activities is centered not on quick or miraculous solutions, but on diversified and long-reaching policies that reach the capillary level and are sustained over enough time to become permanent. They actually can be considered as changes in culture, not just improvements in material conditions.

5 - More than creating a large bureaucracy, the Santos program for children is based on the effective participation of many "social actors": municipal government, the courts, business leaders, volunteers, community organizations, the media, the children themselves. Hence, the traditional administrative system based on laws, budgets and controls has been broadly supplemented by a permanent process of coordination with other social players in the city, rooting the activities in local institutional traditions.

6 - The result-oriented policy has gradually led to the coordination of different government structures, including national and regional welfare agencies, generating a strong effort of inter-government management. Since the good results are benefitng all agencies, the tendency is to sustain the effort.

7 - Information has been considered a key issue, a fundamental dimension of children's advocacy. This has required both "fine" organization of information that is only possible to produce if educators work in the risk environments where the children live, and a broader statistical view that makes it possible to scale the programs correctly. It has also been necessary to interact with the social actors, identify job opportunities and other real alternatives for the children, as well as communicate with society as a whole about the world of its children and help it overcome fears and prejudice.

The general feeling is that the sustainablility is guaranteed, in so far as these things can be guaranteed, both by the institutional framework, and the culture of basic social values that is being reaffirmed in the city.


1. the indicators used to measure impact are classical, such as infant mortality, but the city is presently generating a set of "quality of urban life indicators", in the line of the Human Development Reports from the U.N.

2. Sustainability of the program, since it is basically linked to institutional development, is based on involving all city actors with the needs of children: as such, the indicators are basically qualitative.

3. The success of the project is being measured both by quantitative and qualitative indicators.


    David Capistrano
    Prada Maua s/n
    55-13-219.5201 fax: 55-13-219.1334


    Santos Municipal Government
    Ladislau Dowbor
    R. Hawa’ 533 apt. 7A
    Sao Paulo
    Sao Paulo
    55-11-872.9877 fax:55-11-871.2911


    Santos Municipal Government
    Antonio Lancetti - Secretario SEAC
    R. Augusto Severo 7, 14 andar

    Secretaria de Aao Comunitaria
    Carlos Lamberti - Vice Prefeito
    Prada Maua s/n

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