Where to volunteer: Institutions that support destitute children

Where to volunteer: Institutions that support destitute children

To help destitute children, volunteers need to work with the organizations that are set up to support destitute children.
In India, destitute children are supported by about 9500 Child Care Institutions(CCIs). These institutions have been set up to provide a safe space for destitute children and prepare them for a better future. About 90% of these Child Care Institutions are run by NGOs, some of whom are registered with the government. About 40-45% of these institutions are located in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra.

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.

Challenges faced in providing care:
According to a recent study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development , many Child Care Institutions find it difficult to sustain-ably provide even the basic services –such as nutritious food or clean water- to the children residing there.
More than half these institutions have a shortage of skilled staff members. The existing staff of Child Care Institutions need training in sensitively responding to children and exposure to innovative methods of teaching the children.
As a result, many child care institutions are not able to equip the destitute children with the health, confidence and skills needed to contribute to the country.
The shortage of trained staff can be overcome if the institutions have linkage with organizations that have expertise in providing de-addiction services, mental health services, vocational training and educational services. However, such linkages are few.
There is need for more systematic documentation within these institutions. This could help the managements of these institutions as well as the government to review and improve the functioning of these institutions.
Some of these problems could be rooted in a lack of sustainable financing or a lack of management expertise.

Volunteering opportunities
Given the resource shortage, it is clear that Child Care Institutions (and therefore destitute children) could benefit from volunteers.
Volunteers could help in a variety of ways. Some examples are mentioned below:
increase exposure, educate and train children using innovative methods,
provide counselling,
assess and suggest improvements in nutrition and health of the children,
train staff of the NGOs
help develop relevant documentation processes,
establish linkages with funding agencies and other resource-rich organizations
create awareness about their impacts in the general public and among other important agencies.