Child Welfare Committees renovated for improved care of abused children

As quasi-judicial bodies functioning under India’s Juvenile Justice Act 2015, Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) are responsible for the care and protection of children who have been abandoned, orphaned, physically or sexually abused or trafficked, assaulted, injured, or forced to labour.

Understanding the pivotal role that each CWC plays in providing justice and rehabilitation for these children, IJM has been partnering with the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) since 2017, to create child-friendly CWCs in Maharashtra. Most recently, the CWCs in Ulhasnagar and Nagpur were renovated and then inaugurated on 10th April 2019 and 4th June 2019, respectively.

IJM has prepared a checklist of key features that can contribute to making each CWC more efficient and empathetic towards the children, while also creating a conducive working environment for the committee members. These features include an enclosed counselling room, a play area equipped with toys, books and videos, modern administrative resources like computers and a digital token system, clean toilets and drinking water facilities, adequate storage spaces and waiting areas, and an air-conditioned, child-friendly boardroom where the CWC members can speak to the children without making them feel intimidated.

The benefits of these changes were validated by the beneficiaries themselves. For example, a 10-year old girl who exuberantly told one of our social workers, “I didn’t like when I had to go there (the CWC) because I got bored waiting. But now I enjoy watching the cartoons on TV and playing with the other children. I especially enjoy drawing on the blackboard.”

Shri. Ravi Patil, Deputy Commissioner, DWCD, said,I am glad that these CWCs are now better equipped to make children feel safe from the moment they are brought in through the doors. However, infrastructure improvements are only the first step. We are committed to building the capacity of all the members to prioritise the needs of every child.”

IJM has been successful in getting private, non-profit and community partners to support the Government in creating positive change. A case in point, the renovations at the Ulhasnagar CWC were largely backed by Shalom Charitable Trust, an organisation that supports causes related to the well-being of women and children. “We understood that by supporting IJM in transforming even a single CWC we would be reaching out to thousands of children thereby contributing to a larger and more sustained impact.” explains Mr. George Philip, a representative of Shalom Charitable Trust.

Ms. Melissa Walavalkar, Director of IJM Mumbai, adds, “IJM is confident that the CWCs that we’ve worked with so far will serve as models for the competent care and protection of vulnerable children within the State. We will continue to collaborate with the Government and other partners in order to support projects that help improve the efficiency of our justice systems.”

Over the last three years, IJM has helped transform four CWCs in Mumbai and is looking forward to replicating these efforts across the State, in partnership with the DWCD.