Project Need Assessment
In India, a child goes missing every 8 minutes (NCRB). In Odisha alone 100s of children runaway everyday and land up at railway platforms only to become potential targets of Child Trafficking, Sexual Abuse, Child Begging, Child Labour and Drug Peddlers. More than 80% of cases reason for over trivial issues.
The consequences are quite evident:
- Increased Vulnerability to child trafficking
- Increased Vulnerability to child labour
- Increased Vulnerability to child beggary
- Increased Vulnerability to drug addiction
- Increased Vulnerability to flesh trade
Some indirect consequences:
- Children are easily prone to Health Hazards
- Children are easily prone to mental and physical atrocities
- Children are easily prone to antisocial activities
- Will increase illiteracy and poverty
Children are the building blocks in the making of a civilized society and to protect theses blocks from disintegrating Govt. of India postulates “The Child Care Protection Act” which is in the best interest of a child. The factors taken into account in determining the child’s best interests include- (a) the safety of the child; (b) the child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development; (c) the importance of continuity in the child’s care; (d) the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other person and the effect of maintaining that relationship; (e) the child’s religious and spiritual views; (f) the child’s level of education and educational requirements; (g) whether the child is of sufficient age and maturity so as to be capable of forming his or her own views and, if so, those views are to be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child; (h) the effect on the child of a delay in making a decision.
Since this social challenge is burgeoning in leaps and bounds, SOCH considers it as its social obligation to help these children in difficulty. There is a need to step up the intensity and widen the reach of operation keeping the best interests of the child under paramount consideration.
Our past operational experiences at different (Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Puri) Railway Stations reports 100-120 child runaway/missing/abducted/abandoned cases every month. Also the no. of hard core street children leading a platform life is as high as 200-300 children. This is quite alarming as in spite of regular intervention the problem still persists. Hence, considering the need of the hour to intensify the activities with more resourceful approach SOCH conceptualized Project “Rakshyak”.
It is all about rescue and resettlement of runaway, missing, abducted and abandoned children majorly focusing at railway stations. Rescued children are brought to a Counselling Center for necessary counselling, food, first aid and cloth support. Due efforts are made to trace the family address of the children. Then children are either reunited with their families or put on institutional care with appropriate involvement of government’s Juvenile Justice System. Project Rakshyak initiated with establishment of SOCH in July 2012. Operation in 3 clusters of Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Puri, the project has rescued over 3000 children; and reunited over 2200 children with their famolies as per the figures till 31st March 2017.
- To rescue and resettle runaway, missing, abducted and abandoned children. First priority will be given to family reunion and last option for Institutional care.
- Provide immediate support to the rescued children in form of cloth, food, first aid support, etc.
- Provide Counselling support to the rescued children.
- Tracing family address of the rescued children.
- Provide Counselling support to the parents of the reunited children.
- Family reunion of the rescued child with proper involvement of Juvenile Justice System.
- Institutionalize Orphan or semi-orphan children for care and protection and education with involvement of Juvenile Justice System.
- To develop child centric community through awareness and sensitization meetings.
- To conduct and participate in studies, surveys, seminars and work shop connected with children’s issue.
- Conducting follow-up and extending necessary support to the reunited children.
The Project has been designed with a very systematic step-wise approach taking in consideration the need and assumed condition of the rescued child. Activity I to Activity VII sums up the whole process of rescue to resettlement under Project Rakshyak.
I. Outreach and Networking
While Outreaching focuses on identification, observation, interaction and rescue of runaway/missing/abandoned children, Networking is all about rapport building, creating awareness and sensitizing different stakeholders about child issues.
Platform Intervention: Platform Intervention is a major activity under outreach activities. Here the outreach workers will cover all the platforms of the Railway Stations. Along with Rescue of the vulnerable and runaway children in the station platforms, the Platform Intervention will also include building of a good rapport with the key-stakeholders i.e. the Railway Authorities, Railway Employees, Vendors, Hawkers, Coolies and Cleaning Staffs etc. A regular contact with the Stakeholders ensures that they become an integral part of the Child Reference System.
Rescue: The outreach worker will identify the children who are vulnerable to be victimised by the predators, or being trafficked from the platforms by traffickers. It will start with a general interaction with the potential victim so as to build rapport as well as to verify if the child is a runaway child. It will also involve coordinating with the GRP and the RPF for Govt. Formalities followed by the child being brought to the Temporary Shelter for further action.
Network Building: A good network with the Stakeholders ensures that maximum runaway children benefit. We should aim at creating “child friendly stations” through active engagement of the Stakeholders. So, Network Building plays a very important role in “RAKSHYAK” project. Networking with the key Stakeholders maximizes the reach to runaway children in the Railway Stations. Within the realm of Network Building, sensitizing activities among the Stakeholders will be undertaken through monthly meetings and information sharing regarding the disadvantage of platform life for the vulnerable children for the Stakeholders.
II. Counselling Center Activities
Counselling Center Activities become essential as not every child opens up on the first go. They need some time and their confidence has to be won to extract facts. It also comes handy when child is rescued in a very precarious condition suffering from starvation and deprivation. Since they are found in unhealthy conditions, they are first engaged in Indoor games, Music, Entertainment, Drawings, Food and Fast aid before counselling. This helps them relax and ward off all the stress they have been through. Further it builds trust and leads to a friendly relationship between the rescued child and the Counsellor.
It is self expressive term which helps restore trust, faith and belief. Every age has its own challenges. Children do have their own share of problems. The transitional events like separation of parents, violence among parents, alcohol-use, barriers to education, and the financial restraints in the family can lead to emotional trauma among children. Under such circumstances, children are more likely to need special attention and help. Families play a big role in providing this support system. In case the children need more help, counselling by a professional counsellor becomes important. It also acts as morale-booster while living at the platform; they are subject to recurrent violence, abuse, and exploitation that can further lead to a life of abandonment and social alienation.
There will be counselling sessions for the rescued child as well as for his/her parents by professional and experienced counsellor. For child it will be to get to the root cause of the action and for parents it would act as introspection. Thus bridge the generation gap. It will and help in minimizing a child’s anxiety about being lost/ or of a bleak future. This will also make them aware of their life space so as to build a meaningful future through self-determination of meaningful and realistic goals. It will also help in reunion as the secret is revealed. The counsellors will provide a non-judgmental environment to provide for an amicable resolution of such thought processes. Moreover, children who display various behavioural or adjustment issues, these counsellors will work towards building of constructive behaviour among such children. The primary counselling starts with the first point of contact to a child in station, where rapport and trust building is done to encourage the child. After coming to the shelter, necessary counselling will be done in accordance to the child’s needs.
IV. Address Tracing
Top priority of project Rakshyak being family reunion address tracing become the key activity. It starts with counselling where the child shares information about the family. Based on the information received and with the help of online tool, local police and local NGOs the exact address of the child will be established. The authentication of the address details as given by the child might take days and sometimes months. During this period the child will be counselled regularly so as to get more details about their address, and to protect them from further emotional distress while in the shelter home or in NGO’s. Since it is unfair to expect the child to give accurate address, each input during the counselling process- phone numbers, house number, temples, nearby hospitals are taken note of.
Sometimes, when the children can’t verbally express the landmarks, in such cases they are encouraged to draw landmarks or maps so as to get a superficial understanding of their home address at the least. In case, the family members can’t be contacted through any means, a physical visit by staff along with the child will be undertaken to the identified localities of the child so as to aid in restoring the child’s well-being by reuniting him/ her with the family.
If during the process of counselling, the address details of parents couldn’t be found, the children will be kept in the temporary shelter for counselling purpose and then handed over to the nearby NGO and produced before the CWC (Child Welfare Committee) and CHILDLINE.
V. Child Resettlement
No child should ever be forced to live alone and at risk on a Railway Station. Hence family reunion becomes the top priority and proper care is taken to trace the family address of the children. It is supported by parent counselling. In case, reunion is not possible, they are settled in the Institutional Care.
Parents’ counselling: Children don’t exist in vacuum. They are affected by their family as much as they affect the family as the life of children is nested in their family life. It helps in Identifying the triggers that had led to fleeing of the child, the parents are counselled about minimizing the triggers. Moreover, they are also counselled about not judging the child for his/her stay outside the home and facilitate absorption of the children into their family amicably. Education of the child is of primary concern for his/her bright future. So, parents are also counselled regarding this.
Thus, parents’ counselling will bridge the gap between the child and the parents through reflection of the process of parenting and help the parent in giving a positive environment to the child to develop.
Family reunion: Children have a right to lead a happy and safe life. Home restoration is the best way for ensuring safety for runaway children. We, at SOCH, believe in reintegration of the children into their family as soon as possible. Given the context of India, where familial bonds are the threads which regulate a child’s sense of belongingness. This sense of belongingness is an integral part of the child’s sensed of identity. Therefore, family reunions are the times of rejoice. They are the times when the efforts of SOCH seem to be successful. Counselling the children about their future dreams and how they are going to establish their future course with their families are of necessity before they are reunited with the family. This helps in collaboratively setting down future goals with the child and minimizes the risk of the child attempting another run-away from home.
VI. Referral to Other Institutions
Every home is not safe. Not every child will be happy in his/ her home.
More than driven by the aspect of reuniting the child with their family, SOCH is driven by the spirit of restoring happiness of the child and ensuring the child’s safety. There are few stories that don’t have a happy ending after being reunited with the families. There are certain situations wherein it becomes impossible or is unfair in the part of the child to reunite them with their families.
Homes where the child is exposed to regular emotional trauma through abuse, violence or separation of parents; or is forced into child labour due to the financial condition of the parents; the children are referred to different Government Sponsored Shelter Homes and Child Care Institutions. These institutions provide them shelter, education and professional counselling during times of distress.
Since SOCH runs by the policy of ‘CHILD COMES FIRST’, the decision of going back to the home rests on the child. The goal of reuniting with the family or being handed over to any institution is set up during the process of counselling by the CWC members or the organizations. It is set up by the professional counsellors of these organizations in collaboration with the child.
VII. Follow up Support
The rescued children are a part of SOCH family. Our relationship with them doesn’t end with their reunion with family. The responsibility of the SOCH team doesn’t end with the reunion of the child with the family or settlement of the child with institutions. One-time telephonic follow up is taken from the institutions where the children are referred to. A telephonic follow up is done after one-month and then a subsequent follow-up after three months of reuniting the child with the family is taken. In some cases, a physical follow-up visit is done to establish the reliability of the telephonic follow up information.