Friday, March 23, 2012

Need of standardizing the norms of child care institutions across sector

Dear Colleagues,

There are several institutions in the country that provide institutional care to children in crisis and those who need support. A large number of such institution provide services to children with disabilities. Many of these institutional may not be registered at all and many of these are registered under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995. There are several that are run by religious and charitable organisations and are not registered under any law.

We have several laws that regulate or register institutions/societies providing such service. An institution can be registered as a  society, trust, non-profit company under Societies Registration Act, Indian Trust Act or under some of the State Acts dealing with Registration of Charitable institutions/trust or under the Indian Companies Act. It may also be just an unregistered organisation providing such a service. There is no binding single law that provides clarity on proper regulations of such institutions. Children in need are children, but we have actually divided them in to so many categories to be dealt by so many agencies- a disabled child by ministry of social justice, a tribal child under the Ministry of Tribal Welfare - just to name a few. Similarly there are multiple laws like Women and Children Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956 and the new JJ Act 2000 that also deal with registration and regulation of Institutions, The persons with disabilities Act 1995 also provides for registration of institutions providing such services to children with disabilities. Then there are ones run by the Social welfare departments of the State Governments and many governed under the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.

This has lead to a huge confusion not only among the government functionaries but also among the NGOs/Institutions about multiple registrations / recognition etc. There is no synergy or standard of rules that regulate all institutions. Thus many institutions get left out of any registrations resulting in constant new incidents of child abuse and human rights violation. Before regulating the institutions, the Government has to set its own house in order and streamline their own registration procedures by unifying the process and applying same standards to the child care institutions whether run by a particular ministry or department or registered under JJ Act or Persons with Disabilities Act. Without this, it is just not possible to account for and regulate the number of institutions that have sprung up in various parts of the country and ensure a reasonable standard of human rights.

The children are children first and thus all institutions registered under any Act/Law should follow standard common procedure and process. Registration under one law should be sufficient since it is wrong to burden the NGOs/Institutions to seek recognition and registration under multiple laws. If provisions of Juvenile Justice Act are more enabling and child rights centric lets make them the standards to be followed by all other institutions irrespective of their registration status. And let there be a single regulating agency in each state to  inspect and ensure compliance of the minimum standards in these institutions instead of "this is not under my ministry or my mandate"  psychology. We have seen this confusion in Delhi recently when incidents of child abuse were reported in Arya Orphanage.

Its never too late, I am happy that first baby steps have been taken to at least identify such institutions working across the length and breadth of the nation. Regulation can be the next step. Hope the Government has a larger perspective to ensure standardization in these institutions and if need be support those who lack resources. We can't undermine the important role being played by charitable and religious institutions and voluntary agencies in care and  development of children without any family support, though there are few black sheep as well. Need is to regulate and standardize the norms to check the abuse and neglect of children not only in institutions but also reach out through community resources to those who still haven't found a home/institution and are living in vulnerable situations on roads, pavements, etc.

The initiative by Ministry of Women and Child Development is a welcome step. Here is the news:

The Hindu : Life & Style / Society : Enhancing institutional care

Centre asks States to survey children's homes, proposes amendments to Juvenile Justice Act

Concerned over the abuse and neglect of children living in child care institutes across the country, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has asked the States to conduct a survey of all such institutions, including orphanages at the district level to ensure that these are registered as mandated under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The States have been asked to submit their report to the Ministry within a month.

The Centre has also proposed to amend the JJ Act to include strict penal provision for non-registration and repealing the older existing laws like the Women and Children Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956 and Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960 under which child care institutions were licensed and have so far evaded registration under the JJ Act, 2000. The State has also been asked for their views on these issues.

In a letter sent to all State governments, the Union Women and Child Development Ministry has pointed out that differently-abled children were also living in such child care institutions, many of which are also run by religious and charitable institutions, and that this should also be reviewed.

Section 34(3) of the JJ Act provides for mandatory registration of child care institutions housing children in need of care and protection with the intent of enforcing minimum standards of care for services provided to the children in these homes. The JJ Act also provides for stringent monitoring of the quality of services. “It is for this reason that this Ministry has been persistently urging the State governments and Union Territories to identify and register all child care institutions under the JJ Act. However, progress in this regard has been very slow,” Women and Child Development Ministry said in its letter to the States.

To ensure that children in child care institutions receive the best of care, and are not subject to abuse and neglect, it is imperative that all the homes running in your States housing children in need of care and protection are identified and registered under the JJ Act, the letter said.

The Ministry has also asked the States to issue public advertisements to draw the attention of all organisations running facilities for children in need of care and protection towards their obligation to register under the JJ Act. “Simultaneously, surveys may be conducted at the district level to identify such homes that are not registered and the organisation may be urged to register under the JJ Act failing which their registration, recognition or license issued under any other legislation may be withdrawn and the children shifted to any other residential homes under the JJ Act,'' the letter said.
Source: The Hindu

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