on the details of
The QIC and AC initiative has been attempting to create synergy among the organizations working for children in institutions to evolve standards of quality care – an area that has remained outside the purview of the category of ‘children in difficult circumstances’. It has also attempted to collectively advocate for promotion of alternative care – trying to look at institutionalization as the last resort where family or parental care was not in the best interest of the children. New Alipore Praajak Development Society (Praajak) has been committed to the rights of Children In Need Of Care and Protection (CNCP) and Children in Conflict with the Law (CCL) and has been an integral part of the initiative since its inception. The Project Holder and Founder Member of Praajak, Deep Purkayastha, has been involved in addressing socio-legal issues related to gender and abuse. He has also undertaken professional courses on child care to supplement his intervention with children in need of care and protection. Presently he is a Fellow of the Ashoka Foundation working to sustain and expand the Muktangan Program for the Railway children in collaboration with the Railway Protection Force.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) acknowledges that the family is the natural environment for the development and well being of the children, that parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing of the child, and that the child has the right to be cared for by his or her parents. However it has also been observed that the family does not always embody safety and security for a child. Unfortunately children are often deprived of a safe family environment for various reasons – poverty, death, relinquishment or abandonment, disability, family disintegration, instances of domestic violence and man-made or natural disasters being prominent ones. Abdication of parental and government responsibility is manifest in the large number of children languishing in institutions characterized by depersonalized care systems. Quite commonly, the institutions became synonymously associated with boarding schools – the pull factors being free shelter, food, and schooling facilities which reduced the burden of rearing children for a whole lot of people who can otherwise provide for their children. Depersonalized care in institutions compounded with confinement and regimentation causes psychological distress among children often inducing them to escape from the institutions. Absence of trained counselors or any psychosocial intervention compounds their crises.
While seeking reforms in the Juvenile Justice system the initiative felt the need to address the larger issues pertaining to child protection linked with institutional children – the need to shift from institutionalization towards deinstitutionalization and looking at alternative care and child protection through involvement of the community. With cross border infiltration being on the rise, it is a serious concern to discern the political and legal aspect of migration, taking into account the socio economic and cultural dynamics of the neighbouring countries prompting migration. Thus the initiative has evolved to look at the ‘family’ not always being in the best interest of the child especially cases where violence, exploitation and abuse is perpetrated on children by family members. However, looking at the State being the guardian / custodian of ‘children’ in such cases, remains the essence of the initiative.
- Building a movement on Child Protection issues within the state.
- Advocating for policy changes on systems and structures at the state and national level.
- Experiment with sustainable community based care models to prevent children being uprooted from the family and community.
- Advocating for child friendly changes in the existing laws and policies linking them to the concept of justice for children.
The focus of Praajak’s intervention through the review year was three-fold – working towards intensive outreach in the districts of West Bengal, Action research on a variety of issues arising from outreach in the districts, Mobilizing the core groups and Advocacy with the Juvenile Justice (JJ) system in the state.
Major achievements include :
- Compilation of various government schemes was undertaken by Praajak. The focus was on analyzing various government schemes that can be linked to programs for Children in Need of Care and Protection [CNCP] and Children in Conflict with the law [CCL].
- Core Groups were formed in 4 districts in addition to the existing Core Group’s formed last year. The core group meetings were utilized as an opportunity to orient the members on issues related to child protection.
- Links with Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) were established and consolidated through active involvement at district and state level processes. Links with newly constituted CWC’s and JJB’s at Purulia were established. Interface with the existing CWCs at Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Baharampur and Murshidabad were strengthened.
- The Resource Organization (RO), in conjunction with the Diocesan Development and Welfare Society Allahabad and Tatwasi Samaj Purnea, worked together for rehabilitating 26 children rescued from bonded labor from the carpet industry in Bhadoi, UP.
- 4 girls and 3 boys were institutionalized from Malda railway station as their vulnerability and absence of any other support system required institutional placement as the last option.
- A handbook on restoration and repatriation is being prepared by the Resource Organization. This handout would act as a reckoner for fledgling organizations working on the issue of restoration and repatriation.
- Cases of children rescued with the help of organizations like Childline, Railway Protection Force and small agencies working in the districts especially in Malda, Jalpaiguri and Purulia and North 24 Parganas were referred to the CWC for immediate action.
The diverse experience of organizations and individuals engaged with the coalition, ideological alignment among the organizations, outreach to connect with remotely located organizations and decentralization through district level partners are visible strengths of the coalition. The shift from QIC& AC to Coalition on Child Rights to Protection (CCRP) has enabled addressing larger gamut of child protection issues. The RO has a strong credibility in the field of child protection.
- Youth Groups formed in all 29 blocks of South 24 Parganas, 20 Youth Groups identified and associated with CCRP in 8 districts of West Bengal including Kolkata and 6 capacity building workshops held with youth groups.
- Capacity building to be held for Police personnel on child protection issues.
- Community Policing as an approach to be initiated in 3 Police Station areas in South Kolkata – linking youth groups in localities with Police.
- Youth-led child protection committees to be established in 3 Police Station areas in Kolkata.
- Advocate for increasing district coverage of Childline. All Childline collaborating organisations to be co-opted into district core groups. Sensitizing Childline partners in West Bengal on Child Protection issues.
- Usage of the Right To Information Act to elicit information on action taken by the State relating to CNCP issues along with the relevant district core groups. Resorting to PIL for compelling the govt to act along with the district core groups.
- Policy advocacy to increase visibility of CNCP groups and seek specific and appropriate protection measures. An audio-visual advocacy film and 4 booklets to be prepared on CNCP.
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