Laws and Initiatives for Welfare of Orphaned Children

Synopsis: This article provides information on two things. First, on the available legal means to report about orphaned children. Second, protections available under the state.

Introduction 

2nd wave of the pandemic has taken the lives of many young mothers and fathers. It has left many children orphaned and vulnerable. It is usual to see requests to adopt a child on social media.

Some NGOs are helping such children. However, legal procedures need to be followed in adopting such children. It ensures the safety and security of children,

What are the available options to help orphaned or abandoned children?

There are many legal options available for an individual to help the orphaned children who need care and protection.

  • Option 1, Toll free Childline number 1098: Childline India Foundation, Women and Child Development department’s nodal agency, manages it.
  • Option2, informing the concerned District protection officer. Contact details can be found on the National Tracking System for Missing and Vulnerable Children portal. It is maintained by the Women and Child Development department.
  • Option3: The third alternative is to approach the nearest police station or its child welfare police officer. Such officers are specially trained to exclusively deal with children, either victims or juveniles.
  • Option 4: Calling the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS). It is a pan-India single number (112) based emergency response system for citizens in emergencies.
How the state provides support for children who are in need of care?
  • Once an outreach agency recovers an orphaned child, it needs to produce the child within 24 hours before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of the district.
  • The CWC, after an inquiry, decides whether to send the child to the child’s home. Or rather should it send it to a fit facility or a fit person.
  • If the child is below six years, he or she shall be placed in a specialized adoption agency.
  • It is the duty of the state to take care of all such children who are in need of care and protection, till they turn 18 years.
  • Once a child is declared legally free for adoption by the CWC, adoption can be done either by Indian prospective adoptive parents or non-resident Indians or foreigners.
What are the safeguards provided for orphaned children by the state?
  • Firstly, an orphan child kept by an unlawful authority is punishable. According to the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, the father, and in his absence the mother, is the natural guardian. Not even a close relative is allowed to look after the child without authorization.
  • Secondly, In Sampurna Behrua vs Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court of India directed States and Union Territories to ensure that all child care institutions are to be registered.
    • Hence, according to The Juvenile Justice Act, an NGO,  which is not registered, cannot house children in need of care and protection.
  • Thirdly, the Supreme Court in Bachpan Bachao Andolan vs Union of India directed all Directors General of Police, to register a first information report as a case of trafficking or abduction in every case of a missing child.
    • Further, it mandated at least one police officer not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector in each police station to undergo training. So that they can deal with children in conflict with the law and in need of care and protection.
  • Fourthly, each district should have its special juvenile police unit, headed by an officer, not below the rank of a DSP.
  • Fifthly, The Supreme Court in Re: Exploitation of children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu (2017), specifically asked the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, and police training academies in every State to prepare training courses on the JJA and provide regular training to police officers in terms of sensitization.
  • Sixthly, recently The NCPCR requested the state to intimate about any information received about any, abandoned or orphaned child to it by email or over the telephone.

Children are an important national asset. Their wellbeing is directly related to the growth of the nation. Also, DPSP (Article 39) of the Constitution prohibits children from being abused. Hence,  it is the duty of the state to provided necessities to the children in need of care.

Source: The Hindu

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