In a bid to streamline the process of tracking an infant in government shelter homes, the state Women and Child Development (WCD) department will soon start digitising records of each child brought under its care, right from admission till adoption.
The state government plans to maintain a centralised data on each child, his or her progress, education, medical history, and where the child s file stands in adoption procedure. This will also include linkage with Aadhaar card. Currently, very few shelter homes, both private and government, link admitted infants with Aadhaar, that too once the child turns five.
Officials with the WCD department said the data on orphans or abandoned children is mostly documented in hard copies in inpidual shelter homes without a standardised format. The Juvenile Justice Act has a uniform procedure for each child. For instance, filling of Form 17 when child is produced before child welfare committee. All these legal requirements need to be streamlined and made available on a central database, said Idzes Kundan, newly appointed WCD secretary.
Plans to boost foster care, where a child is placed with a family rather than a shelter home, are also underway. According to the Central Adoption Regional Agency (CARA), in 2016, foster care guidelines were amended under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015. The central government introduced group foster care concept where a family could look after more than one child and look until their adoption. The government also allows foster family to adopt the infant if they look after him for at least five years.
Data from CARA shows that in 2017-18, there were 3,276 adoptions within India and 651 adoptions done by foreign couples in India.
In Maharashtra, Bhagyashree Jadhav, project officer for state adoption regional agency, said that foster care was in its initial stage and required awareness amongst public to come forward and register themselves. Kundan has directed WCD officials to look into eligibility criteria for a child to enter foster care and sensitise shelter homes. Based on national guidelines, a child may be placed under foster care after a period of one to two years of waiting for adoption.
In 2018, Maharashtra had drafted its own rules for foster care under JJ Act. There are willing parents to do foster care. We need to start implementing the rules, said Manisha Piraris, programme manager of Integrated Child Protection Scheme in state.
There are only two organisations officially registered with the state government to facilitate foster care for children before they are adopted, both are in Mumbai.