Despite the CM and the Minister for Social Justice being on the KSCCW’s board, the government doesn’t set any funds aside for it.

Give us diapers not toys asks Kerala govt adoption centre saviour to abandoned kidsPhotos : Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Child Welfare Saturday, July 08, 2017 - 14:40

When Sumathi (name changed), who was suffering from blood cancer, found herself struggling to even meet her treatment expenses, she knew she could no more care for her daughter as she deserved. It was to the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare that Sreeja turned.

Though she had explained to her daughter why they were going to be separated, their parting was still painful. But Sreeja trusted that the KSCCW’s Thiruvananthapuram adoption centre could provide her daughter a better shot at life than she herself could.

Just days before Sumathi’s daughter arrived, the centre received another girl child, a three-day old infant. Her mother, who had two other children from her first marriage, had decided she could not care for a third child after her second husband abandoned her. She sold the infant to a couple in Tamil Nadu, but the baby was rescued and brought to the centre.

Poverty isn’t the only reason infants end up at the Thiruvananthapuram centre. Another infant ended up here because her mother was 12 years old and unwed when she gave birth, and her grandparents could not imagine the stigma their daughter would face in society.

These are just three of the many children cared for at the adoption centre of the KSCCW. In all, 74 children, aged between two days old and six years old, have been taken in here – some left directly by parents because of social or financial compulsions, and others left anonymously in the Amma Thottils (Mother’s Cradles) set up by the Council.

With 58 caretakers, five trained nurses, a creche for toddlers and a Montessori school for older children, the adoption centre offers a second chance for these children who might otherwise have been abandoned to fate.

But all is not well for the centre, which is only one of two government adoption centres in the state. Despite the Chief Minister serving as the President of the KSCCW and the Minister of Social Justice as its Vice President, the Council and its adoption centre receive no funding from the government.

The only funds the centre raises come through selling a Children’s Day stamp published by the KSCCW, and sold in all government and aided schools. “The only income we generate is through the sale of the stamp. But the difference between the income and the expenditure is huge,” KSCCW Secretary Deepak SP tells TNM.

The centre faces a shortfall of nearly Rs 20-25 lakh each year, no matter how tightly budgets are planned, says Deepak.

This has left the centre in a finance crisis, struggling to fund even basics like staff salaries and food and other supplies for the children.

The KSCCW has brought the issue to the notice of the government, but no funds have been set aside for it till date, says Deepak. A memorandum was even submitted to the government just before the presentation of the state budget, but in vain.

“We are managing with donations, but it is not sufficient,” says Deepak.

The KSCCW does not accept cash donations, but only in kind, taking food supplies, toys and so on. Part of the problem faced by the adoption centre, says Deepak, is also in the form of donations they often receive.

“Most of the people donate toys and fancy items. But what we need more is diapers and medicines. But how would do we tell people not to donate something and give something else? Since the children are not breast fed we need to buy lactogen and since their immunity is low we need to buy medicines for them. For medical check-ups we need to take them to hospital frequently. Meeting medical expenses, buying medicines and lactogen and so on costs more,” he says.

Assistant Adoption Officer Sreeja J Pillai voices the same concerns. “Toys we get a lot of. But there is shortage of diapers. But since we meet a lot of our needs through donations we can’t take a stand on this.”

Nurse Sweety MR says that for such young children, keeping hygienic conditions and providing medical care is of prime importance. For this, nothing short of high quality resources will work.

Besides the adoption centre in Thiruvananthapuram, which was started in 1973, the KSCCW has been running one more centre in Malappuram for the last three years. The KSCCW has set up Amma Thottil for abandoned infants in all districts of the state except Kozhikode. The children from this programme are cared for and put up for adoption through the two centres. The KSCCW’s two adoption centres are the only government-run centres in the state, while there are around 17 private adoption agencies.

Deepak says that the work the KSCCW’s adoption centres do is important and much-needed in the state. A key difference between their functioning and those of private centres, is the comprehensive follow-up procedures the KSCCW undertakes with regard to children adopted from its centres, to make sure they are well-cared for. “There are allegations that in adoptions from private agencies, some agencies receive lakhs of rupees. Here is the most credible operation,” says Deepak.

He adds that if provided the funds, the KSCCW has plans to start its adoption centres in every district. “There is a need to start such adoption centres in all districts, and we are planning it. All we need is funds,” he says.

Contact details : Kerala State Council for Child Welfare, Near Government Model School, Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram 695014

Phone 04712324932

All Photos: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair

 

Edited by Rakesh Mehar

 

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