Institutional care refers to the care, protection, rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in difficult and vulnerable circumstances in an institutional setting under the guidance and supervision of child care professionals whose actions are governed by the standards as prescribed by the law of the land. The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 sets standards of care and protection for children for different types of child care institutions. It is important to note that the focus of child care in India as well as in many countries across the world has shifted from institutional to family or community-based child care, as is recommended by international instruments on child care and researches on the issue. This change in approach is reflected in India’s National Policy for Children 2013, which has identified one of its key priorities as ensuring a range of care options that are non-institutional, family-based and community-based. (Standards of Care in Child Care Institutions, Udayan Care and UNICEF India Country Office, 2016)
A Study Report
In 2019, Miracle Foundation India collaborated with its 2-partner organisation Child Care Institutions (CCIs)/ Children Home Gokul Balika Ashram for girls run by Matrumandir located in Devrukh – Ratnagiri Dst. Maharashtra & AARAMBH Boys home located in Indore Dst. Madhya Pradesh is a part of its pilot project with the goal to ‘create a replicable model for other CCIs to effectively implement Family-Based & Alternative Care through systemic change by engaging multiple stakeholders. As reflected in the goal, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, holistic approach and children’s best interest were at the core of the project.
Trauma-informed care (TIC) is critical in institutional settings to address not only the trauma of experiences that lead children to be enrolled into alternative care such as child care institutions (CCI), but also the inherent trauma that comes from a child being separated from her or his family. Miracle Foundation (henceforth referred to as Miracle) ensures the rights of the child are met while she/he is at an institution while working towards placing every child into a safe, loving family. This article looks at how Miracle Foundation applies principles of trauma-informed care at every stage: from intake and care at a CCI while awaiting placement, to preparing children and families for transition, and finally to monitoring and support post-placement. Following a brief background of the trauma surrounding institutional settings and its damage on children’s development drawn from existing literature, we will define the principles of traumainformed care: safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness, and empowerment. The narrative will then illustrate how these principles are applied with children, families, and CCI staff through capacity building, access to counselling and mental health resources, and dedicated guidance by Miracle team members throughout the child care and placement process. Training government officials through a train-the-trainer model equips them to practice a strength-based approach with children and families. Government officials in turn pass this methodology to all CCIs in their purview, broadening our impact multifold. This also positions us for systematic change when it comes to developing all members of the social workforce through system strengthening. By building up a robust mental health program rooted in both prevention and intervention, Miracle has worked to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health prevalent in the South Asian context and ensure the best interest of the child. This will add to the larger body of work on best practices related to applying the theoretical aspects of trauma-informed care on the ground.