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Protecting the Rights of Vulnerable Children in India

The strategic planning and implementation at Miracle Foundation are guided by child-centric international treaties, conventions, national guidelines, legislations related to orphan & vulnerable children. Miracle’s work globally and nationally in India is guided by the human rights principles, norms, and standards embedded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 1989), the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history which is the moral minimum for any society. The UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (UNGACC)[1] were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20th November 2009, in connection with the 20th anniversary of the UNCRC. The Guidelines intended to enhance the implementation of the UNCRC, target both policy and practice with specific regards to the protection and well-being of children who are deprived of parental care or who are at risk of being so.

Miracle Foundation’s work has evolved into ensuring that every child has a family that looks after them, loves them, and supports them. The two-pronged approaches of Miracle’s work are to prevent children from entering the system in the first place; and transition children from CCIs into permanent families. The article throws light on respective sections of UNGACC, that resonates with the core approach of Miracle Foundation

Section IV of the UNGACC signifies preventing the need for alternative care through focusing on:

  1. Promoting parental care
  2. Preventing family separation
  3. Promoting family reintegration

Promoting parental care

States should pursue policies that ensure support for families in meeting their responsibilities towards the child and promote the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents. The States should implement effective measures to prevent child abandonment, relinquishment, and separation of the child from his/her family. Social policies and programs should, among other things, empower families with attitudes, skills, capacities, and tools to enable them to provide adequately for the protection, care, and development of their children. The complementary capacities of the State and civil society, including non-governmental and community-based organizations, religious leaders, and the media should be engaged to this end.

The social protection measures should include:

(a) Family strengthening services, such as parenting courses and sessions, promotion of positive parent-child relationships, conflict resolution skills, opportunities for employment and income generation, and, where required, social assistance.

(b) Supportive social services, such as daycare, mediation and conciliation services, substance abuse treatment, financial assistance, and services for parents and children with disabilities. Such services, preferably of an integrated and non-intrusive nature, should be directly accessible at the community level and should actively involve the participation of families as partners, combining their resources with those of the community and the carer.

(c) Youth policies aiming at empowering youth to face positively the challenges of everyday life, including when they decide to leave the parental home and preparing future parents to make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health and to fulfill their responsibilities in this respect.

Special attention should be paid, in accordance with local laws, to the provision and promotion of support and care services for single and adolescent parents and their children, whether or not born out of wedlock. Measures should be adopted to ensure the protection of pregnant adolescents and to guarantee that they do not interrupt their studies. Efforts should also be made to reduce the stigma attached to single and adolescent parenthood.

Various complementary methods and techniques should be used for family support, varying throughout the process of support, such as home visits, group meetings with other families, case conferences, and securing commitments by the family concerned. They should be directed towards both facilitating intrafamilial relationships and promoting the family’s integration within its community.

Support and services should be available to siblings who have lost their parents or caregivers and choose to remain together in their household, to the extent that the eldest sibling is both willing and deemed capable of acting as the household head. States should ensure the appointment of a legal guardian, a recognized responsible adult, or, where appropriate, a public body legally mandated to act as guardian for the child-headed household.

Preventing family separation

Proper criteria based on sound professional principles should be developed and consistently applied for assessing the child’s and the family’s situation, including the family’s actual and potential capacity to care for the child, in cases where the competent authority or agency has reasonable grounds to believe that the well-being of the child is at risk.

Decisions regarding removal or reintegration should be based on this assessment and should be made by suitably qualified and trained professionals, on behalf of or authorized by a competent authority, in full consultation with all concerned and bearing in mind the need to plan for the child’s future.

Support programs should be provided to future parents, particularly adolescent parents, who have difficulty exercising their parental responsibilities. Such programs should aim at empowering parents to dispose of their responsibilities and stop the children from falling prey to vulnerability.

When a public or private agency or facility is approached by a parent or legal guardian wishing to relinquish a child permanently, the State should ensure that the family receives counseling and social support to encourage and enable them to continue to care for the child. If this fails, a social worker or other appropriate professional assessment should be undertaken to determine whether there are other family members who wish to take permanent responsibility for the child and whether such arrangements would be in the best interests of the child. Where such arrangements are not possible or are not in the best interests of the child, efforts should be made to find a permanent family placement within a reasonable period.

Specific training should be provided to teachers and others working with children in order to help them to identify situations of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or risk of abandonment and to refer such situations to competent bodies.

States should take into account the best interests of the child when deciding whether to remove children born in prison and children living in prison with a parent. The removal of such children should be treated in the same way as other instances where separation is considered. Best efforts should be made to ensure that children remaining in custody with their parents benefit from adequate care and protection while guaranteeing their own status as free individuals and access to activities in the community.

Promoting family reintegration

In order to prepare and support the child and the family for his/her possible return to the family, his/her situation should be assessed by a duly designated individual or team with access to multidisciplinary advice, in consultation with the different actors involved (the child, the family, the alternative caregiver), so as to decide whether the reintegration of the child in the family is possible and in the best interests of the child, which steps this would involve and under whose supervision.

Once decided, the reintegration of the child in his/her family should be designed as a gradual and supervised process, accompanied by follow-up and support measures that take account of the child’s age, needs, and evolving capacities, as well as the cause of the separation.

Richa Tyagi,
Director - Strategy & Technical Expertise
Miracle Foundation India


1 https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/document/united-nations-guidelines-alternative-care-children/

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