PRESIDENT George Maxwell Richards has appealed to non-governmental organisations to reach out to children abandoned or neglected by their parents, to prevent them from living on the streets or joining criminal gangs.
Richards made the call on Saturday evening at the Paria Suites Hotel and Conference Centre during the launch of the Rapidfire Kidz Foundation.
The new foundation's president is Kevin Ratiram, and vice-president, Joy Abdul.
Richards said there was an increasing number of "street children" in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly in urban areas.
He said these children may not homeless, but are left alone by their parents for long periods.
The President said: "The process does not take place overnight, but in the face of absentee parent or parents who do not provide the basic necessities of food, clothing and perhaps even shelter, the need to survive becomes a priority and these children gravitate towards what they consider to be the organisation that gives them a sense of belonging. Somebody cares enough to include them, never mind that destruction awaits.
"It is not necessarily that parents do not care, but what we are witnessing is a cycle in which parents who themselves were neglected transmit the only thing that they know. The children must therefore fend for themselves."
Richards said follow-up assistance is needed and organisations ought to target the youth in need, with a view to empowering them to collaborate in changing their own lives.
"As adults, we may sometimes be far removed from the emotions of young people. We may have forgotten what they feel. Disadvantaged youth know the feelings of children in distress far better than we, and can be your allies," said Richards.
Guests at the launch of the foundation included wife of the President Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, national cricketer Daren Ganga, San Fernando Mayor Navi Muradali, Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph and Chaguanas Mayor Orlando Nagessar.