State, CSOs must join forces to help children


In her 2021-22 Budget speech, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the launch of Mission Vatsalya — erstwhile Child Protection Services scheme (CPS), which focuses on children’s protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The new guidelines lay down the roles and responsibilities for childcare and protection institutions and re-define the scheme’s implementation by the ministry of women and child development (MoWCD) at the central, state, and district levels.

While the revised framework comprises many crucial aspects, a potential area of progress could be public-private partnership for strengthening the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in distress. On the one hand, the government can be considered the main provider to the larger population, and, on the other hand, civil society organisations (CSOs) can provide specialised services that cater to diverse cultural and demographic contexts.

However, until now, collaborations for investing in children’s welfare have been dominated by funding initiatives focused on education, health, and nutrition. Although these are crucial, there remains a dearth of investments that can be utilised for supporting children in vulnerable circumstances. Therefore, the mission’s launch can be seen as an opportunity to encourage more funding and corporate social responsibility agencies to invest in the rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable children, which is being facilitated by the State and CSOs.

Together, such partnerships can offer tailormade services for children. In addition, these partnerships have the potential to develop state-of-the-art models for child welfare. One good example of this is the model anganwadis in the form of nand ghars — funded by Vedanta under the Anil Agarwal foundation initiative with MoWCD — which provides integrated and high-quality services for early childhood education, nutrition, maternal and child health, and skill development programmes for women at the doorstep.

Inferring from the success of this project, it is practical to say that replication of such alliances for the development of institutional and non-institutional care models and targeting child rehabilitation could bring about immense progress in children’s development. The institutional care model refers to the care provided through State-funded Child Care Institutions (CCIs), whereas the non-institutional care model includes family or community-based care through adoption and foster care.

These public-private investments can be directed towards revamping the infrastructure of CCIs or building new ones.

While family or community-based care is preferred for the holistic development of children instead of institutional care, these CCIs are still home to many children in their growing years and can have a lasting impact on them. Therefore, it is necessary to build them as per the needs, comfort and most importantly, the safety of children.

Beyond infrastructure, such investments should also be made towards strengthening the technical capacity of the managing staff — which can transform the functioning of CCIs. It is crucial to train the staff on contemporary childcare practices and compliances.

Another area of intervention is the aftercare of children, i.e., the reintegration of children who are leaving CCIs at 18 years. Along with financial support, funding should be provided to organisations that can design and implement programmes on therapy, career counselling, digital and financial literacy, skill and vocational training, and mentorship to help these children live an independent life.

Evaluating what these partnerships can achieve, it is unfortunate that many agencies still don’t prioritise funding child protection initiatives. This further impacts the functioning of child rights organisations, often resulting in the under-utilisation of their expertise. However, given that the government has been trying to push partnerships in this area, the launch of the new guidelines offers a perfect opportunity to translate this into reality.

Nalini Bhandari is manager, Strategic Investment Research Unit, Invest IndiaThe views expressed are personal

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