FAMILY AND COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES FOR CHILDREN
INTRODUCTION In today’s world, a vulnerable group needing recognition beyond generic documents and principles is that of children. Perhaps more than the other groups, children need special protection because of their fragile state of development, as they are readily susceptible to abuse and neglect. Thus, a child should have the basic rights to: • Be protected against neglect, cruelty, abuse and exploitation • Safe housing, healthcare, education that prepares them for future • Be a unique person whose individuality is protected from violation • Prepare for responsibilities of parenthood, family life and citizenship.
THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTSThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights and otherUN documents echo a similar need to protect thechild. As indicated in the Declaration on the Rights ofthe Child, “the child, by reason of his physical andmental immaturity, needs special safeguards andcare, including appropriate legal protection, before aswell as after birth” (United Nations, 1989).
CHILDREN AND MENTAL HEALTHThe National Policy for Children (1974) affirmed theconstitutional provisions and declared that the policyof the state is to provide adequate services to childrento ensure their full physical, mental and socialdevelopment.
FACTORS AFFECTINGTHE DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN Family influences Providing stimulation to learn Social/ cultural exposure Problem-solving strategies Style of parent-child interaction Structure of daily routine Family involvement Parenting
STATUS OF CHILDREN — SOME FACTSClose to 137 million of the young citizens or nearly 30% (India Report— UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, May 2002) ofour child population come from marginalized families and live belowthe poverty line in an acute state of deprivation with little or noaccess to certain minimum services which we take for granted suchas safe drinking water, primary health facilities, universal primaryeducation, adequate nutrition at the school and preschool level andshelter. Coupled with poverty, they are known to face problems within their families due to illiteracy, lack of employment opportunities (especially in rural India), alcoholism, disability, HIV, AIDS, chronic illnesses, death, desertion by father, migration, natural calamities etc. These grave financial, social and emotional pressures seem to shake the very foundation of millions of our families thus affecting the most vulnerable members, the children who end up being neglected , often falling out of the family’s security net.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES FOR CHILDREN — GOVERNMENT’S STAND A response to the needs of many of these children both by the government and the community is caring for them in institutions which go by different names like shelters, orphanages, half-way homes, day care centers, fit persons institutions, foundling homes, Ashram schools and so on. Several departments of the government such as Social Welfare, Backward Classes and Minorities, Women and Child development etc run these residential care facilities and also offer grant-in-aid to non-governmental organizations. A number of public trusts, religious charities and philanthropic organizations and even individuals run similar institutions with public support.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES FOR CHILDREN — GOVERNMENT’S STAND (CONT.)Child care institutions provide education and residential careand offer services greatly valued by families who live inextreme deprivation. The quality of education provided ininstitutions being comparatively better than the freeeducation provided by the State, it is no wonder that anincreasing number of families flock to institutionalize theirchildren most often by sending them to hostels.
TYPES OF SERVICES AVAILABLE FOR CHILDREN 1. Institutional care 2. Families 3. Sponsorship programmes 4. Day care centers 5. Adoption Agencies 6. Foster care 7. Other policies
The larger majority of children in institutions(over 90%) have one or both parents with whommajority are in touch with. Mostly theorphans, abandoned and destitutechildren, working and street children, juvenileoffenders, children of sex workers or child sexworkers, children engaging in substanceabuse, AIDS affected children, children withdisability etc. Are being referred for institutionalcare.The age of discharge from such institutions is18 years or on completion of the school-leavingexamination when children return to live in thecommunity independently or with their familiesand kith and kin.
Children need a nurturing, protective andcaring environment during their formativeyears and from time immemorial the familyhas proved to be the basic social unit whichfulfills these needs. It offers children a legalstatus and promotes a sense of belonging.Socialization and development of emotionalties within and outside the family are shapedby the early experiences within the family. Amess-like or a non-home situation can neversubstitute for a caring family life and equipchildren to face the world.
The sponsorship programme is currently one of the mosteffective services in the country which is preserving anumber of poor urban families. It has bilateral andinternational funding agencies such as Save the ChildrenFund, Child Relief and You (CRY), Plan International,Christian Children Fund, Action Aid etc, which hasbegan providing sponsorship support to children eitherdirectly or in partnership with local non-governmentalorganizations working with marginalized communities.A sponsorship programme offers supervised financialassistance to pay for day care/ school/ vocationaltraining and could include nutrition, healthcare andimproving community services.It is generally made possible only through the care andconcern of a sponsor who provides the financialassistance to sponsor a child through an agency.
Caring for pre-school children during the day isa service gaining popularity in the country todaywith an increasing number of women seekingemployment.Day care centers for the two plus age groupalmost always include a preschool component.The Anganwadis run through the Government ofIndia’s Integrated Child Development Servicesscheme serves marginalized families and is amajor day-care scheme covering over 18.5million children below the age of six years. Itprovides a package of services for children andincludes health and nutrition education formothers with the objective of enhancing thechildcare capabilities of the mother. It offersdaycare services to children for three to fourhours a day while their mothers are working.
For one or more reasons a number of children areabandoned or orphaned leaving them without familycontact. Therefore, adoption would be the bestrehabilitation option as it offers permanency ofrelationships — a family for a child and a child for afamily.It is a legal and social process by which the child of oneset of parents becomes the child of another set ofparents. Adoption is best arranged through a licensedadoption placement agency which cares for adoptablechildren and offers professional support to familiesseeking a child in terms of preparing them for adoption.In India, there is no uniform law of adoption. Only Hinduscan legally adopt a child under the Hindu Adoption andMaintenance Act (HAMA), 1956 which allows onlyHindus to adopt a child and does not permit the adoptionof two children of the same sex.
Foster care refers to the provision of planned,time limited , temporary substitute family carefor a child who cannot remain in his/her home(either temporarily or permanently) due to afamily crisis or problem. It provides a child anopportunity to live in a family environment whilea permanent family solution is being explored.Foster care seems particularly suitable for olderchildren who have been through long years ofinstitutional care or survived on the streets orspent hard years on their own families and findit difficult to bond closely to adults.Today, foster care is also being redefined toinclude day foster care, night foster care .Weekend foster care, short-term foster care,long-term foster care etc. within an institutionunder a housemother
National Health PolicyThe Government of India, Ministry of Health & FamilyWelfare developed and published the “National HealthPolicy” in 1983. The document gave a general expositionof the policies. The National Health Policy was endorsedby the Parliament of India in 1983 and updated in 2002.In brief, the draft constitutes a return to the concept ofcentrally-directed, institution-based health care. Afurther perusal of the document throws up manyfundamental concerns such as the creation of aninfrastructure for primary healthcare; close co-ordination with health-related services and activities(like nutrition, drinking water supply and sanitation);active involvement and participation of voluntaryorganisations; provision of essential drugs and vaccines;qualitative improvement in health and family planningservices; provision of adequate training; and medicalresearch aimed at the common health problems of thepeople. The draft recommends an increase in publichealth expenditure from the present 0.9 per cent of GDPto 2.0 per cent in 2010.
National Rural Health MissionNational Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is an Indian healthprogram for improving health care delivery across ruralIndia. The mission, initially mooted for 7 years (2005-2012), is run by the Ministry of Health. The scheme proposesa number of new mechanisms for healthcare deliveryincluding training local residents as Accredited SocialHealth Activists (ASHA), and the Janani Surakshay Yojana(motherhood protection program). It also aims at improvinghygiene and sanitation infrastructure.The mission has a special focus on 18 states ArunachalPradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, HimachalPradesh, Jharkhand, Jammu andKashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, MadhyaPradesh, Nagaland, Orissa, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.The largest programme under NRHM, covering Indias mostpopulous state, Uttar Pradesh, has been clouded by a large-scale corruption scandal in which two apex health officialshave been murdered. The state government headed byChief Minister Mayawati has been accused of fraud to thetune of Rs. 10,000 crores (USD2 billion)
CONCLUSIONIt is high time we reflecton the magnitude anddiversity of challengeschildren and families facein India and make a strongassertion for an explicitnational family policy anda comprehensive childwelfare legislation toinclude provisions whichuphold the rights of alchildren especially thosein difficult circumstancesto grow up in families andin the larger communities.