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Continuum Of Care In India: From Child Care Institution To Family

Several psychology studies have indicated that living in a child care institution, away from family, can impact a child’s growth and development in a negative way

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Could you imagine growing up without your family and those who love you? This is the reality for millions of children around the world today. According to a 2015 report by UNICEF, there are over 8 million children worldwide living in institutional care. Most of these children are put in institutions because their biological families are unable to care for them due to socio-economic constraints, including the lack of even the most essential resources.

Child care institutions are often referred to as orphanages, given that most of the children living in them are considered to be orphans. The reality, however, is a very different story. Close to 80% (Save the Children) of the children living in institutional care have a living parent or relative who, if given the right support and resources, could care for them.

The idea behind institutional care was to be able to provide basic necessities as well as love and care to children without parental support. There are a good number of institutions across the world that accomplish this with a high standard of care. However, the standards of institutional care vary widely. While there are some that are able to provide children with a nurturing and healthy environment, there are many that are not equipped to adequately care for children or are even corrupt.

Several psychology studies have indicated that living in a child care institution, away from family, can impact a child’s growth and development in a negative way. These impacts could be delayed physical growth, poor cognitive functions, or even the development of psychological disorders. Additionally, it is possible that due to the lack of security and proper protective measures in some institutions, children are at risk of physical, mental, and verbal abuse. All of this indicates that institutional care can have enduring negative effects on the lives of children.

Having to spend childhood in institutional care deprives children of the sense of security, permanency, and confidence that tends to arise in a loving family environment. High turnover rates with staff at child care institutions leave no room for children to form long-term attachments or strong bonds. The United Nations, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and developmental growth, a child should grow up under the love, care and security of a family environment.

An institution should never be a long-term solution for a child. A wonderful aim for any child care institution should be to function as a happy and well-run environment where children spend time on their way to being matched or reunified with a safe, loving and permanent family. 

Since most families let go of their children due to a lack of resources and support, providing them the right help should enable them to welcome their child back home.

Childcare institutions, NGOs, corporations, and governments should join hands to establish a dynamic ecosystem comprising of active interventions which seek to grow and empower young children and ensure that they are nurtured in the caring environment of a family. While bringing children back together with their families is a long process, several factors can be incorporated into the childcare system framework to adequately provide for the needs of children while they await the transition. It’s all about creating a better foundation on which children can grow. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
child care family orphanage unicef

Nivedita Das Gupta

The author is Country Head, Miracle Foundation India.

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