#5 What about my family?
During the time of lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults have felt that the safest place for vulnerable children at this time are the Child Care Institutions (CCI). But what happens when a child considers his/her safe place to be their family?
Ram (name changed to protect the child’s identity), currently 16 years old had been enrolled in a Child Care Institution (CCI) by his mother who lives and solicits in the Falkland Road red-light area through the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). His older brother is married and is currently in their village with his family. Ram is studying in the 9th Standard and will be giving his 10th Standard board exams in 2021. When the pandemic and lockdown was announced, Ram was living at the CCI. Social distancing has become a necessity, much like the rest of us, the movement of the children living in CCIs continues to be restricted. Ram enjoyed his daily walk to school, which is something he is unable to do due to social distancing and the current lockdown.
One day, our social worker received a call from the CCIs Superintendent – Ram and two other boys had run away. The social worker later found out that Ram had gone to his mother who lives in a brothel in the Falkland Road red-light area. Ram had walked for approximately two hours to reach the red-light area.
The Prerana social worker subsequently spoke to Ram, he shared that he left the CCI as he was scared, he was scared because, while he was safe at the CCI, he felt his mother wasn’t. He feared for his mother’s life and well- being, feared that she would contract the virus and die and he wouldn’t be there with her. During a conversation with his brother he told him that if he was sent to the CCI again, he would run away again. All Ram wanted was to be there for his mother and be with her, protecting himself from COVID-19 wasn’t his concern, nor was it something that crossed his mind. To him, continuing to stay at the CCI wasn’t in his best interest.
Ram’s anxiety is a concern and point of stress for some children living in CCIs away from their families, especially older children who are exposed to news that hasn’t been filtered. Limiting media access and filtering information needs to be ensured, a priority at CCIs. It is important that at times like these, these children receive and are given the right information, their concerns shouldn’t be dismissed, they should be given regular updates on the current situation , counseled, and taken care of. Vulnerable children are often left more vulnerable at times like these. Are we listening to children and addressing their concerns?
Our social worker and Ram’s brother contacted the CWC and the case was presented through video conferencing. The CWC members spoke to Ram, his mother, and our social worker, post understanding the situation and keeping the best interest of the child in mind, the CWC ordered that the child continue to stay with the mother on a temporary basis and would relook at the case post the lockdown. The CWC revised all the COVID19 related precautions to be taken with the child and his family.