New Delhi: A new organisation called the Centre of Excellence in Alternative Care seeks to create awareness about the alternative options child care besides adoption, by supporting and strengthening family based care and protection for children who cannot live with their biological parents.
Based in Delhi, the Centre which had an e-launch here recently, seeks to bridge the gap between policies of the Women and Child Development department and its implementation at the ground level through sharing knowledge and information on alternative care options for children.
Major percentage of orphans in India are sent to shelter homes from where they are expected to be adopted. But, often those past the age of five get left behind in orphanages for the rest of their lives, as young couples have been seen to prefer infants to grown up children.
"There are cases where children are not adopted for as much as 5 years due to technicalities and then they are unadoptable because often people want new born babies. This is where we will step in and create awareness about other available processes such as kinship and foster care," says Vasundhara, Managing Trustee and Centre Director.
Poverty coupled with lack of education, unemployment, child labour, homelessness, substance abuse, poor parenting skills, abuse and neglect, physical and mental health needs, community violence, inability to access resources are some of the reasons that children encounter every day.
"Our vision is for children to have safer and stronger family," says Vasundhra.
"When family is strong, then society is strong as a rule, and if family is weak, the society begins to break down. There are numerous reasons for children being in need of care and protection," she says.
The main purpose of the Centre of Excellence in Alternative Care is to "percolate the benefits at ground level as India strengthens and reforms the child protection system. The main focus would be encouraging kinship care and foster care."
"In India many people are not aware about foster care or kinship care and think that the only means available of adopting a child is through going through the lengthy adoption process or by putting them in institutions. We aim to build more awareness in this sector," she said.
The fundamental difference between fostering and adoption is that in the former temporary guardianship must be periodically renewed and the child does not become legally adopted.
Fostering is a common and defined process in the West, especially in the United States where there are government incentives and specific agencies devoted to placing children in homes.
According to Vasundhara, the new Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection) Act 2015, CARA Guidelines on Adoption 2015, Model Guidelines on Foster Care 2015 and Integrated Child Protection Scheme 2014 are all forward looking legislations and schemes.
The new centre is being supported by two major children's service organisations, the Core Assets Group from the UK and the Children's Emergency Relief International from the US and is partnering with the Brown School of Social Work.
"We plan to do evidence based mapping in all the 8 districts of Delhi where we will launch our pilot project in a year from now. We want to build awareness and impart training to NGOs and government agencies and whoever needs guidance," says Vasundhara.
Another goal for the centre is to help building a charter in India on foster and kinship care and other methods of adoption as outlined by the United Nations.
The United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children define a range of suitable alternative care options. Each child in need of alternative care has specific requirements with respect to, for example, short or long-term care or keeping siblings together. The care option chosen has to be tailored to the individual needs of the child.
The suitability of the placement should be regularly reviewed to assess the continued necessity of providing alternative care, and the viability of potential reunification with the family.