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Semi Independent cum guided Group Living as a successful alternative care option

“As a mentor, it fills me with a rush of emotions and feelings such as pride, love, hope, and future to look at these young dynamic champions. From a life of complete dependence on their adult caregivers, they are moving towards ownership, self-dependence, and ambition-driven young lads; and with what grace and poise! I’m so motivated every time I meet them. I wish nothing but the best for them - a world full of love, happiness, and opportunities for them to develop to their full potential.” - says Sana Parveen, Sr. Coordinator - Program (North).

Sana and her team have successfully guided our partner Child Care Institution (CCI) in the state of Madhya Pradesh for the “transformation of care from institutional care to family-based and alternative care” pilot project in the last two years. The project is now moving towards self-sustainability and community engagement with the partner team taking a complete lead.

When we say that “children belong in families/communities”, we do not necessarily mean that all children must be reintegrated with their biological parents. We believe that a child must have complete authority to determine where s/he wants to live (of course, guided by a professional about the pros and cons of each placement option). In India, we have placement options such as reintegration with biological family, kinship care (reintegration with any kin/relative), foster care, adoption, semi-independent, guided group living.

While this partner CCI was in the transition stage, we engaged with the children at every stage to know their thoughts, address their questions and fears (if any). It may be noted that most children (all boys) in this CCI belong to remote tribal communities where education and other facilities are still not so well developed. The boys who were above 15 years of age, were completely cautious of the career path they wanted to take and the opportunities that they must grab to have a successful career ahead in life. With this thought, 10 boys decided to live in the city itself where the CCI is and in an arrangement known as semi-independent cum guided group living. These boys are living in rented rooms in groups of 3. They’re continuing their education, cooking their own meals, and cleaning their living area. They have been provided with bicycles which they use to commute to school/college and their tuition centers. They are learning to do their grocery purchasing and socializing with people in their neighborhood. A very old employee of the partner organization (former House Father and now the Outreach Worker) also lives in the same locality where these boys live. He’s available for them 24x7 for any kind of needs, issues, or even if the children just want to spend some time together and with the Outreach Worker. The partner team stays in regular contact with them, which includes frequent visits as well. Their family members from the village visit them often. During the festivals, holidays, and even during long weekends, the children grab the opportunity to go to their villages and spend some quality time with their families in the village.

Residing in the same city makes it possible for them to visit the CCI as and when they want. During the past year, they visited the CCI for a health audit, the celebration of World Mental Health Day, the celebration of World Egg Day and Children’s Day among others. Sometimes they plan to come over to the CCI just for a get-together/party like on Diwali, Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, etc., and for these occasions, they are also joined by some of their friends from the villages who have been reintegrated with their families in villages. They say they now have 3 homes /families - their families in villages where they visit frequently, the family consisting of their friends with whom they live, and the CCI where they visit to rejoice and have some fun time together with their friends. They are pursuing courses like fashion designing, B.Sc. Nursing and some are in 11th and 12th grades.