Abandoned Chennai baby with Down Syndrome looks to life without her parents

Her parents refused to take her back
Abandoned Chennai baby with Down Syndrome looks to life without her parents
Abandoned Chennai baby with Down Syndrome looks to life without her parents
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Six weeks after her birth, Ashika was rejected by her parents, and it was not because of her gender.

Ashika was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a developmental disorder caused by an extra chromosome, which affects both the mind and body.

Although both her parents are IT professionals and are well off, they handed her over to the Kanchipuram district Child Welfare Committee under the cradle baby scheme.

Three weeks after January 24, the little girl was brought to a home under Child Welfare Committee in Chengalpattu.

“The parents pestered us to take the child. The grandparents too came to our office to convince us,” said Zaheerudin Mohamed, Child Welfare Committee member. “The parents wanted to give the child away because she suffers from Down Syndrome and a major surgery needs to be conducted. The hospital also scared the parents saying that the parents would have to incur a huge amount for the treatment of the child,” said Zaheerudin.  

Child Welfare Committees functioning under the Juvenile Justice Act which watches out for children who need care and protection, as also those in conflict with the law. However, the spirit of the law is guided by the understanding that to the extent possible, a child should be brought up by parents. A government-certified home for children, is the last resort.

“We tried to counsel them to keep the child with them. But they were very reluctant. They thought that the government was better-equipped to look after the child than them,” Zaheeruddin said.

Chairperson of the CWC, Dr RN Manikandan, said that at the moment, the child requires a hospital more than a home. “The family had said that both husband and wife are employed and they cannot look after the child and currently, the child needs to be in the hospital.”

Ashika’s health was precarious when she was brought to a hospital in Chengalpattu. “She was brought in an ambulance on life support, from a hospital in Chennai.”

Disability activists, however, are riled up over Ashika’s case.

Activist Deepak Nathan said, “It is very insensitive of the parents to do this. A disabled child has a right to family. There is so much stigma attached to differently-abled children. Now, that she is in a state home, the government should give her proper care. However, there is no policy to take care of the special children.”

Chennai-based Sri Arunodayam Charitable Trust looks after mentally challenged children. Every month they get two or three abandoned children from Chennai alone.

It’s founder, Ayyan Subramanian, says that in places like Dharmapuri, Nammakal and Ramanathapuram affordability becomes a consideration. “There are so many parents from these districts who do not want to take care of their children because affordability becomes a big issue. Taking care of a child with special needs requires a lot of courage, resources, and lot of care. That’s why many people come decide to give them up.”

However, he says that some things can help. “If parents obtain early intervention and get physiotherapy on time, they can train the child to a great extent. Abandoning and ignoring is not the solution. They could have gone to councilors or visited doctors,” he added.

Ashika’s new care givers are cautious, yet hopeful about her future. Her health is on the mend and she no longer needs life support, Manikandan says. “But she has multiple problems. We cannot assure anything. There is a pediatrician for the child at the home. She is being looked after in one of the best homes under the CWC and she will get better.”

However, until she recovers fully, her future remains clouded. “We will provide her the best care. We will send her to special schools for education in future. But all of it depends on her condition,” Manikandan says.

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