#22 Uncertainty in Rehabilitation and Disruption in Care Plans

Geetarani Lourembam

Prachi (name changed) is a victim of commercial sexual exploitation, rescued in 2018, at the age of 16. Since then, the child has been residing in a child care institution and regularly attending educational and vocational training programs. In December 2019, the CWC passed an Order for Prachi to be in the child care institution till she completes 18 years of age in December 2020. Prerana has been directed to follow up and assist her with her rehabilitation process. Prachi’s mother is under trial as the accused in Prachi’s case and is currently out on bail. She also used to be involved in the sex trade. 

In March, a social worker and counselor from Prerana visited Prachi’s house to follow-up on the family and to facilitate a counseling session. A key agenda of the visit was to discuss the parents’ plan for Prachi after she is restored.

At the time of the visit, Prachi’s stepfather, mother, younger sister (age 9) and younger brother (age 2) were present. The social workers were informed that the father earns an amount around Rs 13,000/- per month by repairing Air-conditioners. However, the father’s income was insufficient for the functioning of the household, so the mother had started working in a Dance Bar. The father would generally go to work from 9 am to 8 pm and the mother would go away from 8 pm to 6 am. Meanwhile, Prachi’s younger sister has been ‘taking care of’ the younger brother. The younger sister (hereafter referred to as Asha, name changed) does not attend school. The mother said, “Asha is a better mother to her brother than I am. She knows how to take care of him very well”. The social worker and counselor discussed the significance of education for Asha with the parents, and also suggested options. The parents subsequently agreed to send Asha to school from the upcoming session. 

The social worker further discussed with the parents regarding their work schedule so that the parents could take care of the younger son and Asha’s assistance in child-rearing could get withdrawn steadily. The parents requested the social worker to accompany them during their visit to the school for admission and a timeline was charted out in the presence of the child and parents for required processes. The visit to the school was to happen immediately after Holi in March. 

Regarding Prachi’s rehabilitation, the social worker introduced the family to the concept of a care plan to the parents and discussed their role in it. The parents were of the opinion that Prachi should be married off within the span of six months as soon as she gets back. The counselor acknowledged their perception but thought it was important to make them understand that marriage might not be in her best interest, thereby initiating a session with them. 

The future plan was to ensure Asha’s admission and regular attendance in school, to explore alternative career options for the mother which would have better work hours and to develop Prachi’s individual care plan inclusive of consistent follow-up visits and counseling sessions with the family. 

In the last week of March, as soon as the lockdown was announced, the social worker contacted the family. The mother informed that the father had gone back to their native village in Bihar after Holi because of a family emergency. She shared that he was now unable to come back due to travel restrictions. The mother expressed concerns and was worried about their well-being. She was also quite worried about the toddler. 

As the lockdown continued, the social worker remained in constant contact with the family to mobilize resources for the mother and children. The little money which the mother had was being used to buy milk for the child. Lack of food supplies and cooking gas was a major concern. The family was not able to access the Government’s schemes of providing subsidized gas cylinders as their connection was not registered. Local NGOs and donors were contacted to mobilize resources, however, there was no response on the provisioning of cooking gas.

The social worker observed a drastic setback to the living conditions of Prachi’s mother and younger siblings. While the social worker was trying to mobilize resources, the mother would inform that the family was surviving on biscuits. Eventually, few immediate requirements of the family were provided in coordination with another organization providing monetary support.

In the last week of April, Prachi’s mother called up the social worker and shared being afraid of the surging cases of COVID-19 in their neighborhood. She was worried and sounded helpless about the health of her children. She is also keen on going to Bihar for the time-being, when travel restrictions are lifted. However, the social worker is not optimistic that the family will return if they leave the city, thereby affecting Prachi’s rehabilitation and the education of her siblings.

Consistently working with her parents and younger siblings was extremely important in order to create a safety net for Prachi’s restoration. However, the current situation has pushed the family further below the social ladder without sustainable support from any front. In June 2020, Prachi’s mother managed to move back to their village. Prachi continues to prepare for her 10th NIOS examination inside the CCI. The prognosis, in this case, does not seem to be bright in the current situation, as the vulnerability of the family has been intensely amplified by the pandemic.

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