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Understanding children's home in JJ Act using an analogy of a healthcare set up

Before the year 2000 (before the enactment of JJ Act), children’s homes were referred to as hostels or orphanages and children were admitted to these facilities totally at the discretion of the authorities of the homes and there were no or scanty regulations governing such institutions.

Fast forward to 2022, JJ Act has become a robust tool governing the children’s homes. Many people who have been running such institutions for a long time (before the year 2000) are struggling to understand the foundation of JJ Act. This blogpost is to help such individuals and others to have clarity on this newest yet disruptive legislation is trying to convey.

First and foremost, JJ act came into existence because of India’s ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that mandated every signatory to develop their country specific legislations to implement the articles of UNCRC. In UNCRC, the most important alphabet is the ‘R’ which stands for ‘Rights’. That means JJ act is the India specific by-product of UNCRC to protect the rights of children within India.

Secondly, UNCRC and JJ Act recognizes the family for a child as the fundamental right to grow in. Hence, JJ Act introduced a criterion to determine who is eligible to be admitted and who admits them. This admission criterion is stated in sub-section (14) of section (2) of JJ Act which defines the child in “need of care and protection” and it is the jurisdictional Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that admits children to these children’s homes.

In essence, JJ Act is saying that existing children’s homes can continue to function but must comply with all the provisions of the JJ Act. But anyone has even more difficulty in understanding what is said above, I have another simple explanation to give. I have also made an infograph on PDF document that you can print.

Let’s take an analogy of a sickly child in a healthcare facility versus a child in need of care and protection produced before the CWC

But, before go on to read any further, kindly take a look at this table to understand the similarities between a healthcare facility and the child welfare committee (CWC).

Where to go: A sick child is taken to a medical doctor where as a child who is identified as the one who is in need of care and protection, such a child is taken to the CWC.

Diagnosis: Once the sickly child is presented before a medical doctor, he collects, history, runs tests and diagnoses the problem to treat. Similarly, CWC uses a tool that is available in sub-section (14) of section (2) of JJ Act to determine which category of need is there in the produced child. There are 12 different categories of children that are listed and if the child doesn’t fall into any one criterion, CWC will not be able to make a decision.

Decision Time: Just like a medical doctor has a choice either to treat the child as an out-patient (with medicines) or as an in-patient (with admission to a hospital), CWC too can choose to send this child back to his family and/ or community (with the needed help and support through networks) or admit him into a child care institute (CCI).

Institutional Care: Once the child is admitted to a hospital, all the other professionals that involved in the child’s care, begins to document in the child’s chart. Similarly, there is a designated individual in child care institute called “Child Welfare Officer” (CWO) who will be documenting the child’s progress in a document called Individual Care Plan (ICP). This is to be done every month of his/ her stay in the CCI.

Follow up: Just like a medical doctor visits the sickly child on a frequent basis to determine further care, CWO updates the care and progress of the child to CWC on a regular basis either in person or through electronic means for throughout his/ her stay at CCI.

Ultimate goal: A medical doctor looks out for the indicators on a regular basis to see when the patient will be ready to get discharged from the healthcare facility, not a day more or less. Similarly, CWC ultimate goals is to reintegrate the back into his/ her home and/ or community at the earliest.

Discharge: When that day does arise for the child to be discharged, medical doctor ensures that the patient and family understand what needs to be done at home with medicines and any other tasks that ought to be completed. CWC also ensures that the child in CCI will be reintegrated with adequate care and protection with instructions for follow up to ensure that the child doesn’t face similar problems like before.

Remarks: By now, you may have figured it that CCI’s have become specialized institutes catering to the specific needs of identified children. Gone are those days when any child could be admitted and cared for at one’s own free will. If you understand this aspect, you would do well lest, this would be a losing battle. Just like how in a healthcare facility, a patient doesn’t decide whether he wants to stay for a couple more days and in the similar way, child in the CCI or the carers at CCI cannot determine about the length of stay of the child.

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