Urgent policy interventions needed for children leaving childcare institution
A research study has revealed that 67 percent of care leavers –young people who have left the state or NGO-run childcare institutions once they reach 18 years of age – are not aware of aftercare provisions. , reveals a research study conducted by NGO Udayan Care.
The study conducted by Udayan Care, a non-governmental organization, said aftercare is the support provided to young people over 18 years of age after they leave childcare institutions to help them in community integration and to live an independent life. Care leavers are entitled to this support as mandated by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 its Rules of 2016 and the Child Protection Services, (earlier known as the ICPS).
The study ‘Beyond 18: Leaving Child Care Institutions – Supporting Youth Leaving Care’ was conducted with support from UNICEF, Tata Trusts, Deep Kalra (CEO, Make My Trip India) and participating state governments. It captures the voices of 435 care leavers and over 100 key informants including functionaries working on the ground on child protection in Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. UNICEF was the lead technical partner and state liaison for the study, which for the first time in India gives a voice to care leavers.
Growing up in childcare institutions has an impact on the education, skills and social stability of young people and does not prepare them adequately with the skills for becoming an adult.
The study points out the lack of participation and non-inclusion of children in planning their future, with 44 percent care leavers accepting that they were not consulted in the development of their Individual Care Plan, a pathway planning process mandated by the Juvenile Justice Act.
Shireen Vakil, Head – Policy and Advocacy, Tata Trusts stated, “The absence of a continuum of care services and a holistic rehabilitation plan impedes children in need of care and protection from living a productive and dignified life.”
“I came to the childcare institution (CCI) when I was 12 years old. I got emotional support and guidance for my career, and I became an engineer. When I was asked to move out of the childcare institution, I was emotionally broken. Since the age of 12, I believed that the institution was my home and family. After I moved out I always felt a sense of insecurity. I would like to request everyone to hear our voice so that we can also lead happy independent lives,” said Ramesh* a software developer in an MNC company.
The study also highlights the gender disparity in the present approach to rehabilitation of Care Leavers. 63 percent of the female care leavers, as against 36 percent males, do not have an independent source of income despite similar educational qualifications. Only two states – Delhi and Maharashtra – of the five States studied have aftercare home for girls. Largely, the approach to female care leavers is focussed on getting them married or sending them to destitute homes or Swadhar Grihas rather than empowering them to be financially independent.
Aneesha Wadhwa, Executive Director of Udayan Care, called for recognition of care leavers as a vulnerable category under various central policies such as the National Youth Policy 2014, the National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 and other policies for youth.
The study also calls for mandatory transition planning as part of the implementation of Individual Care Plans for all children living in childcare institutions from 14+ years to ensure their preparation towards independent living and develop a trajectory of change ensuring that they are supported by the state.
The juvenile justice system is not prepared for Aftercare as there are deficits at the level of information, access, skills, knowledge, and training on transition planning, human resources, and budgetary investments.
Importantly, there is no database of Care Leavers, exiting Child Care Institutions, and no follow up of these youth to monitor their wellbeing and rehabilitation. Care Leavers have no one-point contact for access to Aftercare information and services. z Female Care Leavers are at a greater disadvantage than male Care Leavers in the present gendered approach to rehabilitation and existing social realities, the study says.