The present research study is a field-based empirical study of Children in two Model Foster Care Institutions in South Delhi viz. The S O S Village, Bawana, Delhi, and Prayas, Delhi.
The study highlights that in spite of setbacks in their normal childhood, the inmates in these institutions do not seem to be suffering from any personality problems, or any major psychological setback in terms of psychological well being. A majority of them do not find their institution and the stay there as highly satisfactory. They do not seem to enjoy their residence except that they realise their compulsion and no-option situation. The elder children, as they grow up, feel the inadequacy increasingly.
Short Biographical Note
Dr. Syed Tariq Ahmad is a professional Social Worker with Doctorate in Social Science and having worked with a number of N.G.O’s dealing with Child Rights. He has additional qualifications in Human Rights and have worked as Faculty in Human Rights with IIHR, New Delhi. He has been awarded scholarship for attending 30 th study session on Human Rights by International Institute of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France. He has attended Development Instructors course from CICD, Hull, U.K and is presently working as Research Officer with Centre for Research, Planning and Action, New Delhi, a research and consultancy organisation. His research interests include Child Rights, Environment and Women issues. His contact details email: email@example.com, Mobile No. ++91-9717627246
The Concept of child welfare services has changed with the changing concept of social work. Helpless and destitute children have been the object of ancient religious charity. But the recognition that all the children are in need of help including the destitute is a recent phenomenon. In this age the term ‘child welfare’ has assumed a broader meaning. It is not only concerned with the care of the maladjusted and delinquents, but incorporates the social, economic and health activities of public and private agencies, which secure and protect the well-being of all children in their physical, intellectual and emotional development.1 “Scientific progress in the fields of anthropology, biology, medicine, psychology and social research during the past hundred years has changed the attitude of society towards the child. He no longer is treated as an adult person only smaller in stature but as a human being with his own different rhythm of life and with his own laws of biological and mental growth. We are aware that the child is following drives, social forces and motivations which are basically different from those which govern adult behaviour.”2 Generally children up to the age of fourteen years are treated in this category from where the period of youth starts. However, the declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations in November, 1959 defined children as individuals up to sixteen years of age.
CHILD MALTREATMENT: Meaning, Nature and a Working Definition
Social scientists are now coming to believe that sexual abuse of children in India is far more prevalent than most people realise. The enormity of the problem can be realized by the fact that in India alone, it is reported that at least 25 percent of the adult population has been molested before the age of 16. At least 27 million females are adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Incest is the most common form of child abuse.
Child abuse, physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment or neglect of children by parents, guardians, or others influence the personality makeup of the child. They are greatly responsible for the general welfare of the child. Physical abuse is characterized by physical injury, usually inflicted as a result of a beating or inappropriately harsh discipline. Sexual abuse includes molestation, incest, rape, prostitution, or use of a child for pornographic purposes. Neglect can be physical in nature (abandonment, failure to seek needed health care), educational (failure to see that a child is attending school), or emotional (abuse of a spouse or another child in the child's presence, allowing a child to witness adult substance abuse). Inappropriate punishment, verbal abuse, and scape-goating are also forms of emotional or psychological child abuse. Some authorities consider parental actions abusive if they have negative future consequences, e.g., exposure of a child to violence or harmful substances, extending in some views to the passive inhalation of cigarette smoke.
Child abuse and neglect have been defined as “The portion of harm to the Child that results from human action or inaction that is prescribed proximate and preventable. Child abuse is active neglect and passive maltreatment. These are the two types of violations which are disruptive elements of children's growth. Since a long time, children were not regarded as separate entities with distinct interest and were taken for granted. They had to suffer or enjoy their lives according to the status and conditions of their parents.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE:
The nature of child abuse and neglect are varied and many and they may be as a result of varying factors and circumstances. Child abuse and neglect: Child abuse can be active neglect and passive maltreatment Generally speaking.
There are three main causes of child suffering at the level of society or nation state. They are:-
ii. Poverty and
iii. Social disruption
However, these causes are broad and general and there are many specific reasons within these three broad categories causing varied forms of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment. In this section, the present research work will attempt to discuss the nature, main causes and chief consequences of this problem.
While knowing how many children are abused and neglected is critical to policy development, understanding the factors that contribute to maltreatment and that shape its consequences for children is crucial to the development of prevention and treatment approaches. For instance, the likelihood that an individual child will experience abuse or neglect may be influenced by characteristics of the parent or caregiver, the family’s socioeconomic situation, or the child. Caregiver characteristics such as psychological impairment, experience of child abuse or domestic violence, and attitudes toward parenting contribute directly to the occurrence of maltreatment. Aspects of the family’s social and economic situation (such as unemployment, poverty, or social isolation) affect maltreatment both directly and indirectly, through their effects on parents’ psychological well-being. Finally, characteristics of the child (such as age and gender) may increase the potential for abuse or re-abuse, or may intensify the harmful consequences of maltreatment.
Warning signs of abuse and neglect–abuse leaves a mark
Early identification and treatment make a difference. Children who have been abused may show:
- sexual acting out
- poor self image
- inability to trust or love others
- aggressive, disruptive and sometimes illegal behaviour
- anger and rage
- self destructive or self abusive behaviour, suicidal thoughts
- passive, withdrawn or clingy behaviour
- fear of entering into new relationships or activities
- anxiety and fears
- school problems or failure
- feelings of sadness or other symptoms of depression
- flashbacks, nightmares
- drug or alcohol abuse
- inability to stay awake or to concentrate for extended periods
Some children are more at-risk than others for negative effects
Children are more vulnerable to psychological problems if the child:
- is abused severely, chronically, physically injurious, and by multiple abusers
- is younger when the abuse/neglect begins
- had a close relationship to the abuser is close
- was not functioning well before the abuse
- blames him/herself for the abuse and its consequences
- views the world as a dangerous place
- has a disability
Some children may deal more adaptively than others. Protective factors include the child's individual characteristics such as optimism, good self-esteem, intelligence, creativity, humour and independence. Factors such as the availability of social support and a relationship with a caring adult are important. Community well-being, neighbourhood stability, and access to health care are also critical.
Introduction to the Institution of Study
I. S O S Children’s Village in Bawana
S O S Children’s Village in Bawana, Delhi, is a part of SOS Children’s Village of India. SOS Children’s village of India (SOS CVI) is a non-profit, non-governmental voluntary organisation, having its ranches in various towns and cities in the country. The SOS Children’s Village of India is a part of an international NGO effort committed to the care and well being of children, especially the orphaned, destitute and homeless. The SOS CVI is a publicly funded voluntary body receiving its financial assistance from philanthropists and organisations voluntarily. All over the world, this NGO is a non-political and non-denominational welfare organisation having no links to any particular religion, community, political outfit or partisan group. It is part of the worldwide SOS Children's Village movement having its branches now in 131 countries and a member of the umbrella organisation, SOS, Kinderdorf International.
A SOS family in its Delhi village consists of 9 or 10 children who live together with their 'SOS Mother' in a family home. A family home generally has 3 rooms for the children, a room for the Mother, a large living room, a kitchen and a garden. The Delhi SOS Village had about 20 such family homes in 2004-05 and the total number of children at any given time ranges from 175 to 250 depending on the admissions and other factors. There were 185-210 children in the SOS Village, Delhi while this study was conducted and data were collected between October 2004 – April 2005.
The in-charge of the Delhi SOS Village is the Director, a father figure who is given the overall responsibility of the entire village under his comprehensive supervision. He is assisted by a team of co-workers to run the administration of the SOS village, guide and help the mothers and children and to meet the basic requirements of the SOS village community.
The Administrative Structure of the SOS Village, Delhi is presented below:
illustration not visible in this excerpt
As is obvious, SOS village, Bawana, South Delhi, consists of destitute children, in need of support to live and develop. These children come into the organisational fold from different sources, backgrounds and varied references: Often, the police or the public identify the infants, toddlers and children who are abandoned in public places by their parents or family members. Children also come to SOS village through references by the public and even private hospitals, government run homes, police authorities, railway authorities, social workers, and friends of SOS. Some children are abandoned or relinquished by parents and kept near the SOS village with notification in secrecy.
It was observed by the present researcher after careful inquiry that the children in the Delhi SOS Village have often come from Juvenile Justice Board, Salaam Balak Trust, Child Help Line, Hospitals, some private medical centres, social workers, single parents and the police authorities. All cases are accepted only after social and legal investigations done by the co-workers and individual reports submitted to the organisation. Most of the children admitted are in the age group of 5 – 10 years although infants and even the new born are accepted at times of emergency.
Boys are kept till 14 years of age and later they are sent to the youth hostel called ‘Arunodaya’ in Sonepet, Delhi. This hostel is also run by the SOS Village management. After the school-going children complete their primary and secondary education, they are moved over to another youth hostel at Sopam in Karnal, Haryana on the border of Delhi city. This youth hostel houses all the SOS Village children who enter colleges or for further education and vocational training.
The SOS Children's Village Delhi, like other SOS villages in different locations in the country, works on the basis of four principle components: the mother, brothers and sisters, the house and the village. These four may be explained for the sake of clarity, albeit briefly so as to facilitate the analysis of observational data presented later.
The Mother: Every child is given a ‘Mother’ as the primary care-taker and facility-provider to that child. The simple psychological principle advocated behind this is that because of the ‘mother’, these children do not feel orphaned any more and they have someone to turn to at all times for emotional and other needs of their lives.
Brothers and Sisters: Boys and Girls of various ages grow up together as brothers and sisters. Siblings are not separated. The idea is to provide companionship to these children to make them socially well-equipped and community-oriented. By so doing these children are not deprived of a real family environment wherein they share their resources, feelings, strengths and weaknesses.
The House: Needless to stress that ‘House’ – the home – is an important part of every healthy personality. This concept has a great significance in the Indian cultural setting where house is the source of strength for the person in all walks of social life. House provides the feeling of security, comfort and belongingness. Keeping this principle in mind, every family in SOS Children's Village has a house of its own.
The Village: The house is an integral part of the Village community. This gives the children cultural roots and a feeling of oneness and collectivity. Village is perceived as the arena to open up the child’s potential, an opportunity to express himself/herself as a member of the community and give a meaning to his/her social identity.
Children at the SOS Village
School days fall into a routine of early wake-up, getting dressed, helping their younger brothers and sisters get ready and catching their buses for school. They have their packed lunch at school. On their return they bathe and change out of their uniforms. After their snack, they rest, read etc. Playtime follows where they meet with children from the other families in the Children's Village. Every evening a prayer service is held at the Village, which all the children, mothers and co-workers attend. It is time to go home then and study, have dinner and sleep. Once again weekends and holidays vary greatly.