Concern over abuse and ill-treatment of inmates of childcare institutions, the State Government on Tuesday notified a comprehensive ‘Operational guidelines for childcare institutions.’
The primary objective is to provide a safe and secure environment for all children, free from abuse of any kind while provisioning facilities that aid and nurture their holistic growth. As part of the protection protocol, each institution will have to designate one of its staff members, preferably a lady as the designated Child Protection Staff. Institutions having girl inmates should have lady wardens and must ensure that the right to privacy of every child is protected.
While directing immediate implementation of the guidelines by the institutions under direct monitoring of the district administration, Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards, the Government has laid out a stringent code of conduct for all staff, both teaching and non-teaching.
No staff member can ever act in any way that is intended to shame, humiliate or degrade children.
“Under no circumstances should there be any punishment of children. They cannot intimidate children, even through eye contact, or through physical measures like use of canes, etc. No child should be made to work at homes or workplace. The staff should also not use language that is inappropriate, offensive or abusive towards children, the guidelines have stipulated.
The institutions should have to make available proper infrastructure for development of the children.
There should be separate homes for children in the age group of 0-5, girls in the age group of 6-10, girls above 10, boys between 11 and 15 and boys from 16-18 years.
While the guidelines have clearly stipulated dormitory space of at least 40 sq ft per child, there should be one bathroom per 10 children and one lavatory for seven children.
They should be provided with a balanced diet four times a day with special diet for sick children and during festivals. Adequate medical aid and recreational facilities should be extended.
Encouraging staff to become whistleblowers in the event of any abuse by providing them immunity from retribution and disciplinary action, the guidelines have made it compulsory for setting up grievance redressal mechanism in every institution.
The children should also be able to ventilate their grievances without fear and in anonymity through Children’s response boxes that should be kept away from offices and closer to their rooms and dormitories.
The boxes would be kept under lock under custody of the Child Welfare Committee or District Inspection Committee and checked on a weekly basis.
“The children should also be provided with pre-stamped inland letters, pre-addressed to Collector for sending their grievances. The letters should be kept in the dormitories and be available at all times,” the guidelines have emphasised.