Children’s Villages Bhopal conducted a State-level consultation on status of aftercare and care leavers. The consultation was held in collaboration with the Centre for Urban Studies at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis, Madhya Pradesh.

The participants at the consultation included Smt. D. Jalaja, Advisor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis, Shri Ram Gopal Yadav, Asst. Director, Women & Child Development, Smt. Breeze Tripathy, CWC Member, and Ms. Deepa, Child Protection Officer, Non-Institutional Care, WCD. Many eminent professionals working in the domain of child welfare and youth care also joined the consultation.

The purpose of the consultation was to discuss policy level changes for care leavers, so that their transition from adolescence to adulthood, in society, is smoother. The pandemic has added to the challenges that care leavers face in making this transition. Aftercare is a crucial component of the continuum of care for care leavers to realise their full potential and become a contributing member of society. The consultative meeting was proposed based on a study conducted by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis on “Childcare Institutions and Aftercare Interventions (Madhya Pradesh)”.

The study, which was conducted in the year 2020, included recommendations on improving the quality of the aftercare programme in Child Care Institutions (CCIs). The agenda of the consultation was to review the status of the recommendations, to look at the gaps and to recommend a future course of action for 2022.

Mr. Sumanta Kar, Secretary General, SOS Children’s Villages of India, said: “Care leavers face challenges, more so because of the pandemic. They experience many challenges in transiting from childhood to adulthood, such as pursuing higher education or finding a job. Integrating with society is not easy and they could suffer from self-worth issues. While these challenges have always existed, the pandemic has made it worse. We, at SOS Children’s Villages of India, have been working at resolving some of these challenges. The consultation based on a detailed study by Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis was quite productive. It offered some good recommendations on providing assistance to care leavers, so they can lead a dignified life. We hope that the Government considers these recommendations and helps care leavers in building a good future.”

Reservations in Government jobs, allowances for unemployed youth during the pandemic, bank loans at zero interest rate and entrepreneurship opportunities for aftercare youth and care leavers are paramount.

Shri Ram Gopal Yadav, Asst. Director, Women & Child Development, commented: “We can’t just abandon children once they reach maturity. Care leavers need our continued support in pursuing education, finding productive employment or a home, so that every child achieves their full potential. The consultation process has outlined measures we can take to provide financial and mentoring support to young adults, so that they can successfully integrate with society. We hope to see these recommendations implemented, so that every child is given an opportunity to succeed.”

Based on the study, the participants have recommended strengthening the exit protocol for children leaving CCIs. This can be done by developing a care leaver’s card for each youth leaving the programme, so that they can approach the Women and Child Development and other Government departments for any social scheme support. Considering the time required for completing graduation or a diploma programme, and the time taken to secure a job, it has been recommended that the age for exiting youth from the aftercare programme should be increased from 21 years to 23 years.

The team has recommended including care leavers in the existing Social Security Schemes run by the Government by considering them as a Special Category. The team has also asked for an increase in Government support to care leavers to Rs. 5,000, per child, per month, instead of the existing Rs. 2,000. It has suggested the Government to support children with the issuance of basic documents such as an Aadhar Card, among others, so that the concerned children can procure a Driving Licence, Passport, Bank account, etc.

The team believes that there stands a need to consider reservation for parentless children in Government jobs. This can be done through standing orders from the Government to private organisations/corporates to encourage job provisions for parentless children under the Corporate Social Responsibility. A memorandum will be prepared, under the initiative of SOS Children’s Villages of India, DCPU and other CCI heads, who will jointly meet the Chief Minister for including parentless children in job reservations and housing programmes for the landless.

During the consultation process, Mr. Bharat Ahirwar (care leaver) shared his experience about the mentoring programme for youth, which he received at SOS Children’s Villages of India. The team has proposed to take up mentoring programmes to prepare the youth for productive employment. The participants also discussed the idea of developing vocational courses that reflect the demands of the labour market.

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