Udayan Care, in association with Amity University, organized a two day International Seminar on “Institutionalized Children- Standards of Care and Mental Health” at Amity Campus, Sector- 125, Noida.
Ms. Kushal Singh- Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Ms. Mamta Sahai- Member, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), Dr. Kiran Modi- Founding Managing Trustee, Udayan Care and Rear Admiral Ravi Chander Kochhar-Group Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Amity University inaugurated the Seminar.
Welcoming the distinguished gathering, Dr. Kiran Modi- Founding Managing Trustee, Udayan Care stressed that Institutions (Foster Care and Institutionalized settings) should be the last resort for a child. Millions of children across the globe are staying in foster homes, and there is a need to highlight the problems faced by the children staying in such settings with greater depth and breadth. Such children are deprived of their own homes and are more vulnerable. She expressed that the Seminar aims to chart out practices and policies to be adopted in institutions in South Asian region for wholesome development of the children.
Addressing the gathering, Ms. Kushal Singh- Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) emphasized the relevance of the topic of the Seminar and shared that according to a study on “Child Rights” carried out across the globe, the problems faced by Institutionalized Children are same in all the countries be it Pakistan or Bangladesh. Sharing some startling facts, she remarked, “The mortality rate in South Asia still continues to be higher than expected International norms. Over 42% of the children in South Asian countries are malnourished, which to a great extent is linked to poverty but also ignorance about the good and healthy eating habits and practices. Over 50% of the children in South Asia are un-registered ie. they do not have their birth certificates which ,otherwise, could entitle them to various benefits, as and when they become eligible.” She stressed that the major area of the development of children is the inclusiveness of children with disabilities. Special focus is needed on such children in all the child related programmes and policies to help them live a life of integrity and normalcy.
Sharing her views, Ms. Mamta Sahai- Member, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) stressed that the final aim of Foster homes should be to socially integrate institutionalized children into mainstream. The major protection mechanism of children rights is “Juvenile Protection Act” which is well implemented by UDAYAN in Delhi/NCR. Talking about the neglected Mental Health aspect in most of the Foster homes and Institutions in India, she advised that Foster Homes should maintain mental health records of the children and regularly update them. Children need to get all the support to be re- integrated in society. She expressed her hope that the during the two day Seminar, best practices followed in Foster Homes across the world would be discussed and deliberated upon which would add to the collective learning of the participants.
Dr Monisha Nayar-Akhtar- Editor-in-Chief, ICEB, while launching the first Journal of UDAYAN “Institutionalised Children: Explorations and Beyond” (ICEB), gave a presentation on the concept of the Journal and introduced the Co-editors and Advisory Board of the Journal.
The inauguration was followed by a Plenary Session on “Institutional Care: Standards of care, mental health and impact of violence & vulnerability of children in institutions” wherein Ms Andal Damodaran- Vice President, Indian Council for Child Welfare, Tamil Nadu, Dr Rinchen Chophel-Director General, South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), Dr Jane Calder-Regional Advisor, Child Protection, Save the Children, United Kingdom and Dr Jean-Luc Douillard- Regional Program Coordinator for the Prevention of Suicide sud Charente-Maritime, France presented their views.
Ms. Andal Damodaran- Vice President, Indian Council for Child Welfare, Tamil Nadu opined that the responsibility of Institutions do not end with the child attaining the age of 18 years; they are responsible till the time the child becomes independent and self- supportive. She stressed that that the institutionalised children cannot always be referred to as “Orphans” since they might be staying there because of dysfunctional or violent family environment, safety and protection, or as a lost or found case during natural/man-made calamities or as misplaced street children. She stressed that the management of the Institutions should be child centric rather than Institution centric; violence and vulnerability of these children should be looked into and regular stock taking should be done to assess how many institutionalised children could be repatriated to their families.
Dr Rinchen Chophel-Director General, South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) outlined that SAIEVAC is an inter-governmental body with a vision that all children, girls and boys, throughout South Asia enjoy their right to an environment free from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and discrimination. He stressed that the need of the hour is greater regional dialogue for children who are in Institutions and also those, who are not in institutions but vulnerable in society.
Dr Jane Calder-Regional Advisor, Child Protection, Save the Children, United Kingdom opined that Institutional care is rarely good for children and moreover, it leaves a negative impact on their physical, emotional well being and brain development due to the lack of tailored, individualised care. She shared that upto 95% of the children in residential care globally, have either one or both parents but are staying in such homes either because of poverty, family stress, lack of access to quality education or other reasons. She remarked that children in residential care have rights too but the low standards of Institutions hinder the achievement of these rights. She suggested that ideally, the standards should cover the rights to survival, nutrition, education, health and play, childern’s psycho-social needs, regular care reviews and focus on re-integration.
Subsequently, speakers from South Asian Countries including Mr Najeebullah Zadran Babrakzai National Coordinator for the Rights of Children, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Dr Tuhinul Islam Khalil- Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Management and Development Research (CMDR), Northern University Bangladesh, Ms Nina P. Nayak-Former Member, NCPCR & Former Chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Dr Manizeh Bano-Executive Director, SAHIL, Bangladesh, Ms Fathimath Reesha Childcare Supervisor, Children's Home, Maldives, Ms Fathina Ahmed Khaleel-Senior Projects Officer, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC), Maldives and Mrs Varathagowry Vasudevan-Senior Lecturer, National Institute of Social Development, Srilanka presented their views on “Standards of care and mental health: vulnerability of children, good practices and challenges.”