header
Rights

Child Rights Activists Urge NCPCR to Withdraw Order on Emptying Child Care Institutions

"The NCPCR’s “one size fits all” approach and its assumption that restoration is the only option belies the experiences of children who have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, neglect and exploitation within the family," the statement reads.

New Delhi: Civil society organisations and child rights activists have expressed their displeasure and concern at the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights’ (NCPCR’s) order to district magistrates in eight states, asking them to return all children in child care institutions to their families or find them an alternative, like a foster home.

The eight states mentioned by the NCPCR – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Meghalaya – account for about 72% of all children in child care institutions across the country. Beginning in a phased manner, this exercise will later be extended to the whole country, the commission said.

NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanoongo had defended this decision by saying that all children should grow up in a familial environment. “The principle of the Juvenile Justice Act is to keep children with families and keeping children in child care homes must be the last resort till all attempts are made to give them an atmosphere of home,” he said. He also said that ‘poverty’ is not a good enough reason to place a child in a shelter home. The district magistrates must ensure that in such cases, the family has access to social welfare schemes, the NCPCR said.

Also read: Kanpur Case Proves We Need to Do Better for Children in India’s Shelter Homes

Nearly 800 civil society groups and child rights activists, however, have said that this is a very risky decision that may endanger children. “Despite our firm belief that institutionalisation must be the last resort, we wish to state that removing children from institutional care, irrespective of regard for their peculiar and particular circumstances and bypassing due process will inevitably push many children into situations of greater risk of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation,” their statement says.

The NCPCR, they believe, is violating the Juvenile Justice Act. While in the long-term de-institionalisation should be the goal, it cannot be achieved in this blanket manner without adequate precautions and steps being taken to protect the children, the activists argue. “The NCPCR’s “one size fits all” approach and its assumption that restoration is the only option belies the experiences of children who have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, neglect and exploitation within the family,” the statement reads.

“There is no mention of preparing children and their families for restoration nor for ensuring that the alternative care system has the capacity to support children who can be restored, without subjecting them to greater distress,” it continues. “Individual care plans are an essential part of restoration orders and contain a pre-release and post-release component, emphasising not just the significance of individualised intervention but also preparedness for restoration and follow-up, which will receive a setback if a blanket restoration drive is carried out in the manner indicated in the letter.”

Also read: In Shattered Post-Lockdown Economy, Govt Must Keep a Strict Eye on Child Labour

They also argued that the NCPCR is exceeding its mandate through this order. They demanded that the letter sent to the states be withdrawn immediately, and social audits of child care institutions be released in the public domain. They also asked the relevant ministries to ensure that the Juvenile Justice Act is properly implemented, and that child care institutions have the staff and resources they require.

The full text of the statement and list of signatories is below.

Statement on NCPCR letter to DMs by The Wire on Scribd