My name is Aditya Charegaonkar. I am presently doing my PhD from TISS, Mumbai. I am studying on the topic – “The Journey of Orphan and Destitute Youth in Maharashtra”. According to a TISS report (made by the Resource Cell for Juvenile Justice) in 2013, on the status of Residential Child Care Institute (RCCI), there were 96,000 children staying in 1100 RCCIs. Ironically, there is no data to be found about the youth leaving care facilities. The present system is just fulfilling the needs of the officers and the staff, which was appointed by the government and by civil society organizations.
Due to the insensitivity of the staff, the children under care have been really exploited. Again, there is no care and support for these youth once they turn 18.
In India, there are many children who are actually not orphans or destitute, but end up running away because of violence from their families or the lack of proper care in a family environment. Some of them are caught by the police and are admitted into RCCIs.
In RCCIs, they are treated like prisoners. They have to follow the rules and regulations all the time. Although India today is called a developing country, we are still following old laws and systems to tackle modern challenges. The system runs under the name of child rights and child protection but it fails to provide quality care to children or work in their best interests.
Most RCCIs are run by NGOs. Many NGOs exploit traumatized children who have been neglected by their families – they see them as an asset to be used for the NGO’s profit. Many NGOs are running a racket of children’s exploitation and profiting off that. In RCCIs, children who have lost their parents face huge challenges in coping and adjusting with the facilities provided by the system. Many children are tortured physically and emotionally. There are also instances of sexual abuse at the hands of older staff members or other older children. But there is no adequate support for them to be able to raise their voices. This way, these children are condemned to carry this mental trauma throughout their lives.
While living in RCCIs, children sometimes are relegated to the roles of sweeper, gardener, toilet cleaner or a personal caretaker to other staff members appointed by the system. Along with this, these children have to perform well in education; otherwise, they will lose future opportunities like getting admission in good courses. The way the children are educated in RCCIs, they are never given the opportunity to get exposure to real-world issues or understand them.
After coming out from the RCCIs, such youth become more vulnerable. It’s because of the lack of support system, the negligence of the government and the lack of acceptance by society. Many times, such youth find themselves excluded by the system due to having suffered long-term trauma and lack of access to basic legal documentation like ID proof and address proof. They are also faced with a lack of employment opportunities and finding affordable housing becomes a difficult task for them. Though these youth remain citizens of our country, they become stateless.
After identifying this problem I took an initiative to bring together the youth leaving RCCIs across Maharashtra to support each other. Because, since childhood, I have learned so many things from my peers in different RCCIs and that has given me the strength to trust each other and support each other’s cause. So we have formed a group called Youth Leaving Care Association, where we all will be working together to support orphans and destitute children and see to their emotional well being, higher education, employment skills and job placement and housing. Our goal is to gain actual rehabilitation for the orphans and destitute children of this world.