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Data on kids outside-family-care missing in South Asia

Feb 12, 2018

Experts believe that data of how many children live in out-of-home-care (OHC) in each of the South Asian countries is completely missing.

New Delhi: According to experts, all countries in the South Asian region need strengthening of Alternative Care for Children (ACC), the region is prone to natural disasters and conflict, making the children extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse issues of migration and livelihoods.

There is a need for prevention and mitigation of the heightened risk and vulnerability to violence, abuse, and neglect of children in South Asia.

According to estimates, 43 million children (out of 153 million globally) who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia. The region is prone to natural disasters and conflict, making the children extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse*.

Even though the vulnerabilities of orphan and abandoned children in the whole of SA is humongous, none of the countries in the region has any concrete data of how many children live outside family care, making it extremely difficult to address their concerns effectively.

The South Asian region has low economical status and poverty is seen to exist in almost all SA countries. Often, issues of migration and livelihoods, force families to abandon their child and enter informal or formal forms of Alternative Care. In extreme circumstances when children cannot live with their family or close relatives, such vulnerable children are pushed to Alernative Care where they are expected to be taken care of by the state.

According to experts, all countries in the South Asian region need strengthening of Alternative Care for Children (ACC), given its huge population of vulnerable children.

There is also a need to strengthen family-based care in order to prevent children from entering alternative care facilities and remain in a family environment where they grow in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. However, the absence of data makes this task extremely difficult for organisations involved in childcare.

“There is dearth of evidence-based research studies and authentic segregated data on this issue in the region. There is a need to come out with that data on a priority basis,” says Dr. Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee, Udayan Care. “Often lack of these numbers lead to low investments and financing from the governments. If you see the recent budget announced by the Govt of India, the total budgetary allocations for children is at a low of 3.2%.”

Experts highlighted the need for regional thinking on how to prevent and mitigate this heightened risk and vulnerability to violence, abuse and neglect of children in South Asia. Although there are models of care prevalent in the region that can be seen as good practices and be up-scaled, they are hardly documented and shared among stakeholders. South Asian countries can learn from each other, given the cultural similarities in the region. However, the SA countries stand at different levels on laws and policies, and there is a complete lack of a regional level co-operation or mechanism on this critical aspect of child protection.

“We need to push the agenda of improving alternative care of children to the centre stage in the governments of these countries, and develop a common regional framework to track progress of implementing the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care at the regional level,” adds Dr Modi.

Some of the things that the South Asian countries need to do on a priority basis include improving knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings in South Asia. Countries need to examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on ACC in South Asia, and share and exchange experiences, research and models of care on ACC in South Asia.

Global experience has successfully demonstrated that Alternative Care for Children in order to be successful and protect children’s rights can be a highly complex and multi-faceted process. It requires careful planning at all levels and close involvement of all stakeholders and role players. Putting together data of vulnerable children living in out-of-home-care is crucial and will help both the policy makers and community organizations create a robust plan for combatting issues of vulnerable children in the region.

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