New Delhi: The Government of Bihar is committed to strengthening its child protection mechanisms and towards this, it is open to learning the good practices in other States. A delegation of nine child protection functionaries that include members of the Child Welfare Committee, District Child Protection Unit, State Child Protection Society, Social Welfare Department and Child Protection Officer from UNICEF Bihar visited Delhi over three days (May 18-21, 2022). The learning visit was facilitated by Delhi based NGO, Udayan Care which runs Udayan Ghars, a unique model of child and youth care with aftercare being integrated into its design and implementation.
During the visit, the delegates were given exposure to the Udayan Ghar unique model, who also visited the aftercare homes for boys and girls, being managed by the Govt of Delhi and had an interaction with the officers of the Delhi Government’s State Child Protection Society. The delegates also met the key officials at institutes such as Aurobindo Ashram and GMR, which provides skilling and employability opportunities to the youth.
Voicing her concerns on this occasion, Gargi Saha, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Bihar said, “Through this combination of approaches and activities, especially including children and youth in their pathway planning, we have already begun to see behavioural and procedural changes towards creating relationships where youth feel more at ease to express their problems openly to the concerned officers. Through these efforts, we anticipate that the initiative will benefit youth leaving care on a larger scale, specifically. We hope that the scope of transition planning and training the youth leaving care shall be taken up nationally, as it is prescribed in the laws.”
“The Govt of Bihar has declared the year 2021-22 as the year dedicated to family-based alternative care and aftercare. As UNICEF Bihar we are happy and fortunate to support this initiative and facilitate it. This visit will lead to replicating some of the good practices of the Govt of Delhi. This has also been an excellent opportunity for the Bihar delegation to share the good work being undertaken in Bihar for the most marginalized section of children and young people,” adds Saha.
Aftercare is a critical yet unaddressed area of child protection in India. This is evident from the findings of the “Beyond 18” research study that was conducted by Udayan Care in 2019. There is enough evidence globally and nationally that children growing up in care institutions are not adequately prepared to leave care and are not ready for independent living. Their transition planning and training, during their last years in the Child Care Institutions (CCIs), are often lacking due to the lack of knowledge of the provisions in the existing juvenile laws as well as skills in addressing transition requirements of youth leaving care among child protection functionaries. Often children have turned away on turning 18 without guidance and support or continue to extend their stay in such institutions without any rehabilitation plan. Children nearing adulthood have expressed their feelings by saying, “I felt like a plant being uprooted” to “it’s my life but for social workers, it’s just their job.”
Elaborating on the strengthening of this programme, Alok Ranjan, Assistant Director, Social Welfare Department, Bihar said, “It was a very beneficial, learning and sharing exposure visit of Officers from government-run Child Care Institutions, District Child Protection Units, Child Welfare Committee, State Child Protection Society and Social Welfare Department, Bihar with officers of WCD, Delhi. We are thankful to UNICEF Bihar and Udayan Care for providing this opportunity. Every minute of the exposure visit has been well spent. We visited Government and Udayan Care run CCIs and Aftercare initiatives, interacted with CSOs who are working on Aftercare programmes in Delhi and shared best practices with WCD, CWCs and DCPUs officials. We were exposed to a corporate and private institution’s run vocational training programme which will be very good for our youths and children, staying in institutional care.”
Udayan Care has been working to change the way they care for the children and ensure that they receive continued support and their transition from childcare institutions to independent living is smooth and such young people, also known as care leavers, feel they have a strong ecosystem around them till they get reintegrated as contributing citizens of society. Towards this, it is being supported by UNICEF to work closely in partnership with the Government of Bihar to improve the Aftercare work in the State.
Thanking the Govt of Bihar, Delhi and UNICEF for this initiative, Dr Kiran Modi, Founder and Managing Trustee, Udayan Care said, “It was a good cross-learning initiative. I appreciate the candid sharing by Delhi Government Officials about the pathbreaking work of the Bihar Government namely Child Protection Management Information System (CPMIS) and Home Management Information System (HMIS) that is being looked at and replicated in the NCT of Delhi”.
Since 2019, several child protection functionaries have been trained in transition planning and aftercare and have enhanced their skills in the rehabilitation of such youth. Individual Care Plans (ICP), assessments of disability, mapping of the competencies, skills, and interests of children and youth and life skills workshops have been imparted in two districts, Patna and Gaya.
Stitching centres have been opened in the CCIs in Patna and Gaya to provide skilling to children and they have been engaged in learning several arts and crafts that enhance their skills. Partnerships with Upendra Maharathi Anusandhan Sansthan (UMAS) institute and Lemon Tree Hotel in Patna have led to young people being placed for jobs.
Talking about Udayan Care initiatives, Ranjana Srivastava, Project Lead, Alternative Care and Aftercare, said, “The exposure visit was experiential learning for Bihar Officials. They appreciated the best practices of Udayan Ghar’s initiative of family-based care at the institution level. It was an all-round learning for officials of both Delhi and Bihar where they shared their achievements and learning.”
It is hoped that this interaction will be mutually beneficial for officers of both states and will reinforce their conviction to work with children and youth in more non-institutional approaches.