Meet N, a talented and enthusiastic youngster who dreams of becoming a drawing teacher or lawyer and wanting to help people. When N was 6, she entered a Child Care Institution (CCI) to escape domestic violence inflicted by her mother. At the CCI, she studied up to the 10th standard, learned computer skills, and wanted to continue her education. Unfortunately, N lacked the necessary guidance and resources to pursue her aspirations.
In India, countless children like N fall under the Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP). These children may be orphans, abandoned, victims of abuse, conflict with the law, or come from families at-risk or exploitative situations. Additionally, children with disabilities, mental illness, or those affected by HIV/AIDS also require care and protection. The state assumes responsibility for their well-being, and in the absence of kinship or alternative care options like adoption, foster care, or guardianship, CCIs become their only home.
However, when these children reach the age of 18, they are forced to leave the CCI's familiar environment and enter mainstream society as adults. These young adults, known as Care Leavers (CL), face numerous challenges as they navigate an unfamiliar and often surreal world.
- Source: Supporting Youth Leaving Care: A Study of Current Aftercare Practices in Karnataka (2019)
Let's take a closer look at B's story. B entered a CCI at the age of 4, with no information about her family. While residing in the CCI, her needs were met, and she felt safe and supported. However, B did not have a strong inclination toward formal education, and the CCI arranged for her training as a beautician without emphasizing the importance of completing her education. When B left the CCI, she worked in a textile factory while searching for a job as a beautician. Eventually, due to societal pressures, she entered into a marriage arranged by the working women's hostel where she was residing. Sadly, B faced daily abuse in her in-laws' house and had to leave after just two months with the help of a friend. Her physical and psychological well-being suffered, and she struggled with unstable finances, making it challenging to lead an independent life.
B's experience reflects that life in CCIs may not adequately prepare care leavers for the challenges they encounter later. This is particularly evident during the critical period between the ages of 18 and 23, where care leavers require additional support and guidance to develop the financial, emotional, and social resilience necessary for independent living.
This is where aftercare support plays a vital role. Aftercare is defined as the provision of support, both financial and otherwise, to individuals who have reached the age of 18 but have not yet turned 21 and have left institutional care to integrate into mainstream society (Section 2(5), JJ Act, 2015).
Currently, there are privately-run and government-run aftercare institutions available. Although the number of such facilities and the level of aftercare support provided is insufficient to cater to all the young people who transition out of CCIs at 18.
Source: Supporting Youth Leaving Care: A Documentation of Current Aftercare Practices in Rajasthan (2019)