N was a talented and enthusiastic youngster, who at the age of 18 carried the aspiration to either become a drawing teacher, since she was passionate about the art, or a lawyer with the power to help people. N entered a Child Care Institution (CCI) at the age of 6. Her aunt admitted her in the CCI to save N from domestic violence at the hands of N’s mother. N studied up to 10th standard and learnt to use the computer and wished to continue her education. But she did not have the guidance or the means to accomplish her goals.1
India is home to many such children like N, who fall under the category of Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP). They could be orphans or abandoned children, children who are abused or in conflict with law, children whose parents/legal guardians are unwilling or incapable of taking care of them or children in families at-risk or those in exploitative situations, children with disabilities, mental illness, children living with or affected by HIV/Aids. The care and protection of these children becomes the responsibility of the state and in the absence of kinship or alternative care like adoption, foster care, guardianship etc, CCIs become the only home for these children.
But children living in institutional care are forced to leave, abruptly, when they turn 18, the legal age for adulthood. They leave the only homes they would have known and step outside to become a part of the regular society as adults. These young adults, who leave care institutions, are called Care Leavers (CL) and they struggle to find their feet in a world that’s unfamiliar and unreal to them.
- Source: Supporting Youth Leaving Care: A Study of Current Aftercare Practices in Karnataka (2019)
B started her life at a CCI at the age of 4 with no information about her family. Her basic needs were met and she felt safe and well-supported at the CCI. But she didn’t want to study and the CCI arranged for her training as a beautician without insisting on completion of education. After leaving the CCI, she worked in a textile factory while trying to land a job as a beautician. Since she didn’t show inclination for higher studies, the working women’s hostel where she was living arranged for her to get married. But B faced daily abuse in her in-laws’ house and she left after two months with the help of her friend. Her physical and psychological health became disturbed and her financial prospects remained too shaky for independent life.2
Life in the CCIs may not always prepare care leavers for the life that’s on the outside. This was true in the case of B.
Between the age of 18 and 23, CLs need additional support and guidance to become individuals who are financially, emotionally, socially resilient enough to lead an independent life.
This is where aftercare support plays a vital role.
Aftercare is defined as “making provision of support, financial or otherwise,to persons, who have completed the age of eighteen years but have not completed the age of twenty-one years, and have left any institutional care to join the mainstream of the society” (Section 2(5), JJ Act, 2015).
Currently, privately-run and government-run aftercare institutions are available, but the number and the aftercare is not sufficient to cater to all the young people who walk out of CCIs at the age of 18.
- Source: Supporting Youth Leaving Care: A Documentation of Current Aftercare Practices in Rajasthan (2019)
It is not easy. Since I left my CCI, every single day brings a new problem and there are times when I am not even prepared to face it and want to give up. Life is not simple for us. - Care Leaver