January 26, 2020

Where to volunteer: Institutions that support destitute children

Types of Care:
There are different types of childcare offered to destitute children:
Non-institutional (Foster-) care versus institutional care. Care offered to destitute children by their extended family or family friends is called foster care. This is preferred because the children are more likely to get personalized care from such people. Care offered by institutions outside the family –such as child care homes, orphanages or adoption agencies- is called institutional care. When foster care is not possible, institutional care becomes inevitable.
Longer-term versus short term, emergency care: Some institutions like child care homes and orphanages provide longer term care to the destitute children. For example, child care homes permit children to stay until they become 18 years. Other institutions, like open shelters or observation homes, provide short term and emergency support to destitute children in the neighborhood. For example, they provide immediate medical assistance to injured destitute children found in the neighborhood.

Understanding India’s destitute children

When do children become destitute?
Children in India become destitute in the following circumstances:
When they lose both parents.
When they are willfully abandoned or surrendered by their parent(s) to others. This can happen when parents are very ill or too poor to look after their children.
When they run away to avoid abusive relationships or violence at home or school. This violence triggers anger or fear and drives the children away from home.
When they fall prey to drug abuse, trafficking or gambling in their neighborhoods.

Volunteering to help India’s destitute children

Why help destitute children?
Out of a total of about 435 million children in India, about 145 million children (33%) are ‘destitute’. Lacking access to good food or care, they may find it more difficult to realize their potential, become responsible citizens and contribute to our country’s development.
Children become destitute in a variety of circumstances. These children need help from others to overcome their difficulties and prepare themselves for a better future.
At a personal level, my experience as a mother showed me that helping children realize their potential is a very challenging task. It could be more challenging when we are working with destitute children. Given the scale of the problem and the challenges, several people and organizations need to work together to bring lasting, positive change in the lives of destitute children.