Recognition under the Juvenile Justice system
In the year 2004, Sakthi – Vidiyal was recognized under section 37 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000 to run the Reception Home to house children in need of care and protection. This home has a capacity for 50 children. Boys and girls are housed in separate campuses.
This was an honour as well a wonderful opportunity to serve those children coming under the purview of Juvenile Justice System in India. Street children, vagabonds, runaway children, missing children, begging children, and abandoned children are brought to us for care and protection. Children from varied backgrounds were sent to us by Police, Childline, various courts including the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) and the Madurai district administration for care and protection. Mentally retarded children who are thrown on the streets and infants with special needs are also admitted for specialised care. These children are placed in our reception home only by an order from the Child Welfare Committee.
The Child Welfare Committee functions in our premises and initiates the process of rehabilitation for the children brought under the Juvenile Justice system. We do an assessment of the needs of these children; provide them with basic needs and counselling immediately after admitting them in the home. A probation officer is appointed by the Government who attempts to trace their backgrounds and whereabouts and a rehabilitation plan is made for each child. A few children are reunited with their families whereas some children go into institutional care for long term rehabilitation. These children are given extra care since their traumatic experiences haunt them at times. So far we have done 822 home placements (Boys 518 and Girls 304) and 256 institutional placements (Boys 164 and Girls 92).
Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS):
The Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is a flagship programme of Government of India. The Reception Home enjoys the patronage under the ICPS. It is recognised as an important stakeholder in the safety net ensuring protection for children. A team of professionals including home superintendent, child welfare officer, house parents and counseller are appointed under the ICPS. Dr. Sharmila works very closely with the children living in our reception home and gives them a professional care.
When a child is admitted in the Reception Home we provide him or her with a welcome kit. This welcome kit contains basic necessities for a child which is also gender specific. A welcome kit brings positive impact in the wellbeing of the child. A street child or a runaway child just holds on to the welcome kit as it gives him or her sense of belonging. Children also get excited to see the variety of things kept in the welcome kit. A welcome kit costs Rs.750/- and we invite donors to provide for welcome kits. Recently children studying in Mahatma School in Madurai donated 100 welcome kits which we thank and appreciate.
Child Care Standards:
In the Reception Home, child care standards are maintained. Children lead a happy life with caring adults around them. The quality of food is always ensured for the children. A balanced diet is planned for them which include fish, meat, chicken, eggs, pulses, millets, fruits, vegetables and rice. A variety of items are provided with tasty curries which the children like the most. We strongly believe that food is one of the basic rights of every child and children take part in making informed decisions regarding food. The quality and quantity intake is monitored and ensured that the children are under a healthier diet. Children live in dormitories which are properly ventilated. The developmental needs of children are given importance and attended. A protective living environment is ensured with adequate opportunities for leisure and recreation.
A forum for children is created and they are encouraged to participate in various activities of the forum. Children have named this forum as ‘Natchathrangal’ which exactly means the stars. Children elect their leaders on rotation and plan their activities. In the weekly meetings they share their concerns and needs which are addressed immediately.
A Meaningful Routine:
A routine is followed in the home which gives the children meaning in life. In the mornings they have choices for physical activity which includes, keep fit exercises, throw ball coaching, Karate coaching, Yoga and free play which enable the children to physically exert and relax. After breakfast they have options including Music class, Computer class and Tailoring class and Literacy class. In the afternoons they have counselling sessions. In the evening again they have team games and free play for two hours. After 6.00 pm children watch television and then go for dinner. Children do take part in organizing programmes and celebrations during weekends and on special occasions.
At Vidiyal violence and corporal punishments are totally prohibited and the staff and volunteers cannot use violence as a means to discipline. Alternative discipline techniques are used to enforce discipline in children. Token economy is one such technique which motivates children to adhere to self discipline to achieve appreciation and gifts. Children are divided in to three groups and they are given points for good and responsible behaviour. At the end of each month each team is given chocolates for the points they have scored. This delayed gratification technique enables children to focus on small steps to reach a goal. It also grooms their behaviour and makes them responsible in fulfilling their routine tasks including keeping their dormitories clean, personal hygiene and maintain social etiquettes. Bullying and violence is totally restricted through positive reinforcements.
Most of the children coming to the reception home are with heightened emotions and impulsive behaviour. A professional counseller sits for individual counselling sessions and enables children to think and decide positively for themselves. Afternoon group counselling sessions are always popular at the Sakthi – Vidiyal reception home as the counseller uses novel ideas and activities to kindle the thinking process.
Home Management Committee:
The Home Management Committee is constituted which is headed by the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO). This committee meets periodically and discusses the functioning of the home and welfare of children. Constructive suggestions are provided for improvement.
A girl child named Adela Manriquea Costa, aged 5, from Mexico was admitted in the Recepton Home for care and protection. This was the first time we provided specialized care to a foreign national girl. It brought us great experience of working with police, media, Mexican embassy and other interested parties. She was handed over to Ms.Monica Mansour, her paternal grandmother through the high court order.