Delhi govt outlines policy to identify street children
The Delhi government’s department of women and child development (WCD) has come up with a policy to define street children, and asked 10 of its agencies to identify and rehabilitate them. The policy, called SAMPARC (sustainable approach for multi-faceted progress aimed at reclaiming childhood) could impact nearly 70,000 children in the Capital, according to estimates by the WCD department.
Delhi’s WCD minister Rajendra Pal Gautam said the new guidelines, for the first time, attempt to define street children.
“Children who have run away from their family and are living on the streets, or living with a family on the streets; or children who work on the street and go back to a family after work, are to be considered street children. The Arvind Kejriwal government believes in proper education and development of all children. I have also ordered the officers to ensure children living in shelter homes get good facilities and that no child’s education suffers due to lack of resources,” Gautam said.
The policy, a copy of which is with HT, empowers child welfare committees (CWCs) to take legal action against parents who are making their children beg, with criminal or commercial intent. It also directs district administrations to identify such children who have turned 18, train them, and induct them in the government’s civil defence volunteers force.
“It will not only provide such vulnerable children respectable employment, but owing to their street experience they can assist many other children who come from similar backgrounds,” said the document.
Though there has been no thorough survey till date, estimates with the WCD department suggest that Delhi, on any given day, has 60,000 to 70,000 children surviving in “street-like” situations. The number includes those who live with families on roadsides or in temporary huts.
Rashmi Singh, director of the WCD department, said the government has also floated an expression of interest (EOI) to authorise NGOs and civil society organisations to identify and profile vulnerable children, map resources, and match their needs.
Specific roles have been assigned to different government agencies. For example, the health department and the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) have to bring the street kids under the health safety net with mohalla clinics, Ayushman Bharat scheme, and so on. The labour department will ensure skill and vocational training, and the municipal corporations have to ensure that births and deaths are properly recorded and linked with the WCD data.
“As the nodal department, we have solicited the active role of all departments concerned so that we can have a coordinated approach. We are also inviting more civil society participation, apart from NGOs already partnering with us, to run open shelters for such children,” Singh said.
The state has 26 child care institutions (CCI). Additionally, the WCD department financially supports nine open shelters run by NGOs for street children.
Data seen by HT showed that till June 30, 842 children were living in the government-run CCIs as against the sanctioned capacity of 2,075 — a clear indication that there is a greater necessity to identity more such children and put them under institutional care.
The policy states that in case it is found that the custodians of a child are not his/her biological parents or guardians, the department will request a police investigation to prevent illegal adoption or trafficking. To increase the network of agencies and officials working on identifying and rescuing such vulnerable children, the policy also proposes to constitute the District Child Protection Convergence Committee (DCPCC) in each of the 11 districts.
Once identified and rescued, such children are to be produced before a child welfare committee to decide on whether to allow adoption or foster care or to put them in institutional care.
Sudarshan Suchi, CEO of NGO Save the Children said, “These guidelines need to go hand-in-hand with capacity building and training of all child protection staff to ensure adequate delivery [of the programme].”