A 2019 study conducted in Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan by Delhi-based NGO Udayan Care with UNICEF and TATA Trusts, revealed that 50 per cent of the surveyed care leavers (435 youths) received no housing support, 40 per cent were unable to complete their schooling and 48 per cent had no independent source of income.
A care leaver is an adult who as a child experienced care in a formal or informal alternative care setting, and were legally compelled to exit their care setting on attaining adulthood. Those interviewed in this study drew an average monthly salary of Rs 7,500-Rs 8,500 — lower than the minimum wages for unskilled labour.
To raise awareness for their welfare and catalyse change, Udayan Care with SOS Children’s Villages International (Headquartered in Austria), Stiftung Universität Hildesheim (Germany) and Kinder Perspectief (The Netherlands), is organising the first International Care Leavers Convention. Nearly 500 care leavers, policy makers and researchers from over 68 countries will participate in the three-day virtual event starting today, November 23. Founder Kiran Modi of Udayan Care tells us more:
What is the aim of this convention?
Young people with care experience who want to connect with other care leavers can attend the session. Social workers, academicians, researchers, child’s rights professionals and experts, and service providers interested in advancing the cause of care leavers, can attend. In these virtual sessions of discussion and debate, the Convention aims to collect global research, define the best practices in aftercare and work towards policy change that offers strong scalable solutions to socially, emotionally and financially stabilise their lives. Udayan Care has 200 children in Udayan Ghars, 300 aftercare youths under two programmes, and 3,600 girls in the Udayan Shalini Fellowship Programme, who will also be a part of it.
Does India have enough policies for the aftercare of care leavers?
There are several glaring gaps in implementing care leavers’ rights. The most crucial one is the lack of data, evidence and documentation on where do they go after leaving the care system on turning 18. The present system doesn’t recognise their vulnerability and need for extended support. There is a shortage of programming and budgeting initiatives at the central, state and district level. Most care leavers get pushed to homelessness, unemployment and unproductive or criminal activities. Countries like the UK and Australia have very developed ministries and departments that are committed to supporting them.
How has Covid impacted thelives of care leavers?
The situation has been worsened by the pandemic, which has left the already-vulnerable youth at further risk of physical, financial and social harm. This has resulted in the loss of jobs and income, and left care leavers in crises of food, housing, mental and physical well-being, and livelihoods.
What solutions do you suggest?
They should be provided financial assistance and jobs in the post Covid-19 situation, and extra support to bridge the digital and data divide they are facing. Free counselling and health services should be made accessible. Authorities must ensure that every care leaver is given his/her basic set of legal documents such as passport, identity cards, disability, and other legal documents, so they can avail of the existing youth and social protection measures by the state. They must be included at local, national and international levels in matters pertaining to their future at the policy and practice level.
Rocky road ahead on turning 18
The most glaring gap within the system in India is the lack of data, evidence and documentation on where do care leavers go after leaving the care system on turning 18. The present system doesn’t recognise their vulnerability and need for extended support. Most care leavers get pushed to homelessness, unemployment and unproductive or criminal activities.