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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

Gurgaon’s child care homes: A story of neglect

A reality check by Hindustan Times threw up disturbing facts on how these CCIs are run. Though these homes shelter only 231 children and the resources and donations available to them are more than adequate, the inmates have been facing the brunt of neglect

gurgaon Updated: Jan 28, 2017 22:25 IST
The inmates at these child care homes live in utter neglect.
The inmates at these child care homes live in utter neglect. (Parveen Kumar/HT PHOTO)

As many as 11 child care institutes are currently operational in Gurgaon. However, no institution has come forward or volunteerd to provide good care to the homeless children, who were rescued by government agencies and rehabilitated in these shelters. A reality check by Hindustan Times threw up certain disturbing facts on how these shelters are run and brought out the pitiable state the inmates are in. Though these homes, in total, shelter only 231 children and the resources and donations available to them are more than adequate, the inmates have been facing the brunt of neglect and the lack of basic infrastructure.

“During raids, we found ample groceries in the store room. Yet, the children couldn’t get their hands on biscuits and chocolates that had been sent to them several months back,” Sunita Sharma, district programme officer, women and child department, Gurgaon, said.

HT found that majority of the children living in these homes do not get a quality education as stipulated under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015.

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“The children are not sent to schools or asked to read books at these homes. Though there are books that are meant to encourage the kids to read more, they don’t have access to them,” Sharma said.

There’s hardly any interaction between the children and members of the Child Welfare Committee, an agency under the central government. The lack of any exchange between the kids and the CWC members mean that the latter are not even aware of the miserable state in which the kids are consigned to live in. “We are often told to do daily chores at the home and also work in nearby houses,” rued one of the inmates, who asked not to be named.

Though there are some Good Samaritans who distribute food and other items during festivals and on important family dates, the inmates claimed they rarely get their hands on them. They said most of these items are stored by officials on the excuse that they will hand out the food on rainy days when supplies are running thin.But that day never comes.

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“It is noticed that some people often donate eatables to the CCI’s and they store it instead of handing them out to the children. We want to request these people to ensure they visit the CCI’s personally and distribute the food themselves. We would also urge them to plan a one-time meal with the kids ,” Shakuntala Dhull, chairperson, CWC, said.

“The pulses that are served to us are all water and no vegetables. We hardly get good food to eat and have to cook meals for ourselves most of the time. Often, we get to know that vegetables and even eggs have been allotted for us, but we have no clue where the supply goes,” one of the children said.

During recent visits to some of the child care homes, the officials said that records are not maintained properly. As per rules, there should be separate registers showing details of supervision, logbooks, order book and the movement of children. The homes should have complete information about each of the inmates, which will be cross-checked at the time an inspection is carried out.

“There is an urgent need to maintain proper records and documentation at the child care homes. We have asked them to update the data and if things don’t improve, action will follow,” Sunita Sharma, district programme officer, women and child department, Gurgaon, said.

Read I Gurgaon orphanage under scanner for allowing illegal adoption

As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, all child care institutions need to maintain an “individual care plan” for each child sheltered at these homes. However, barring two child care homes, none of the others in Gurgaon operate on these lines and this is likely to invoke penal action in future.

“Every institution should work for rehabilitation and social reintegration of child based on this individual care plan. Besides, they should provide counseling and mental health support for children through professional counselor and psychologists,” Arijit Adhikari, the state coordinator of Bal-Bigul Haryana Alliance on Child Rights, said.

It is also mandatory for the children’s shelter homes to keep records of inmates, complete with details about his place of birth and the occupation of his parents, among other details. A check by the CWC officials also revealed that at several such CCIs, the record-keeping is shoddy at best and the job isn’t even taken seriously by the staff.

“We have directed these homes to keep detailed records of the children and and send timely updates to the CWC. Non-complaince will invite penal action,” Dhull said.

Recently, a childcare home had come under scanner after it was found to be involved in illegal adoption of children.

The child helpline has also been finding it difficult to deal with these CCIs and move many loopholes in their functioning.

The child helpline, in many cases, ring up the CCI’s at night to let in a rescued child, but the gates stay shut. The staff also try to shirk responsibility. They do not maintain the records of the rescued kids living there and neither do they share the details with the CWC.

“There is the need to train the law enforcement agencies and put together a special juvenile protection unit (SJPU) as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Also, there should be more counselors and advocates in the CWC. All CCI’s must be registered with the CWC and regular monitoring of these should be done”, Rishikant, president of the Shakti Vahani, an NGO, said.

Another major loophole in the functioning of the childcare homes is that they don’t have separate staff pulling daytime and nighttime shifts. “Often, there are children who need help and are sent to the CCIs at night, but there is no response from the officials. Even police teams fail to get a response from them,” Ritu Rani, district child protection officer, said.

However, to improve the functioning of the childcare homes in the city, the CWC, in partnership with the district administration, is planning to step up inspections, interact with staff and the kids in a bid to know their problems first-hand. “We have got more support from the government in terms of staff and infrastructure and definitely the situation will improve,” Rani said.

The Integrated Child Protection Scheme(ICPS) provide guidelines for “minimum care standards” for children that need to be maintained by every CCI, whether government or private-run. Lack of proper monitoring often results in some of these homes, registered under the Juvenile Justice Act, running short of basic facilities.

All CCIs need to be run as per the guidelines laid down under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). But most of the CCIs do not follow them. The centrally-sponsored scheme (ICPS) has prescribed a set of minimum standards of care for children living in CCIs that includes infrastructure facilities like dormitories, classroom, kitchen, dining hall, recreation room, toilets & bathrooms, library, counseling & guidance room, medical centre, proper hygiene and sanitation facilities, medical facilities like regular health check-ups of children, first –aid, first-aid training for staff, maintaining a diet-scale of children twith help from a nutrition expert, adequate clothing & bedding facilities, provision of education for all the children and provision of vocational training facilities.

First Published: Jan 28, 2017 22:24 IST