The State and the child: Care for the most vulnerable
The government recently announced long-term financial support through the PM Cares Fund for children left orphaned due to Covid-19 or for those who have lost one parent. This is welcome as is the Supreme Court directive on Tuesday to the Centre to provide details of the schemes it has announced for the over 1,742 orphans and 7,464 children left with only one parent. The adoption process in India is lengthy and tedious and these children need immediate help as they are in an extremely vulnerable state.
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Many child experts believe that the best option for such children is kinship support. Many relatives are willing to take care of these children and the State should aim to support them at least financially before exploring other options. This would give the children some sort of continuity, care and stability at a time when they are traumatised by the loss of their parents. Single parents who do not have adequate resources must receive State support to take care of their children. The ministry of women and child development could consider engaging with the states to work out a suitable kinship care programme. This would require child protection units right from the district level to monitor orphans in the care of their relatives.
Foster care is another option worth exploring further. It is permitted under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 and the Integrated Child Protection Scheme 2009. This will provide immediate relief, but foster care is considered a halfway house before adoption and the State must closely monitor the physical and mental well-being of the child at regular intervals. The State must work with all stakeholders to explore every care option for orphaned and vulnerable children and ensure that schemes meant to benefit them are implemented effectively. Long-term support is fine, but the urgency of the situation requires immediate measures.
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