About Institutionalised Children: Seminar on Standards of Care and Mental Health with special focus on South Asian Countries

Udayan Care, in collaboration with Amity University, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and other Child Rights organizations, as well as Vatika group and GAIL, conducted a two-day seminar, the first of its kind, on March 14th & 15th, 2014. “Institutionalised Children: A seminar on Standards of Care and Mental Health” was the first initiative of its kind, in India, to bring together representatives from the South Asian countries from the domain of child rights, child protection and mental health, to discuss, and focus  on the issue of mental health, care and protection for children living in institutions.

UNICEF estimates that 153 million children globally have lost one or both parents of which an estimated 43 million live in South Asia. Mainstreaming these children, by providing them with care and protection, is indeed a big challenge. Despite the fact that many alternative care arrangements like foster care, kinship care etc are in existence, institutional care is still the largest facility available to such children, even though it is considered the last resort.

The necessity for organising this seminar arose from the fact that despite so many children, especially in South Asia, being institutionalised, researchers, policy-makers and activists feel handicapped in improving the protection system they work in, because of insufficient data and knowledge about the current problems and practices at all levels of implementation.

The seminar brought together the relevant audiences from South Asian countries, the administrators of institutions, civil society professionals, mental health workers, and volunteers working with institutionalised children to realise a more comprehensive approach to problems faced by children in need of care and protection.

The occasion turned out to be a great platform for debates and discussions and was also an inspiring occasion for learning and exchange of ideas on the state of institutionalised children, especially on mental health and how to bridge the gap between policy-makers, academicians and practitioners.

The seminar came up with the significant a strategy on the way forward in the case of child rights in institutional care, investing in good practices in mental health care and services.

During the conference, the sessions consisted of keynote speeches, plenary sessions and best practice presentations, panel discussions and poster presentations by the speakers.

The final outcome of the seminar was published in the form of a professional report, disseminated to all relevant stakeholders, including Governments, NGOs and other interested stakeholders.

Who attended the Seminar

  • Professionals working in an institutionalised set-up
  • Heads & Chief Functionaries of Institutions
  • Mental health professionals
  • Institutional care-givers
  • Academicians
  • Social workers
  • Students
  • Child psychologists

More than 250 people from 10 countries and representatives from 26 states of India attended this seminar, and availed of the great opportunity to interact with professionals, caregivers, and volunteers from the South Asian countries, working with Child Rights, and alternative care. They benefitted hugely from the sessions which discussed critical issues related to mental health of institutionalised children like trauma, attachment security, grief and loss impacts in institutionalised care. The seminar became a good platform for networking with professionals for exchange of ideas and collaborative research, practice and advocacy