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Child Welfare Committee transformed

The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) exists to help children in need of care and protection. CWCs all across India meet thousands of children per day and make extremely important decisions about their future.

In IJM’s casework, children who are rescued from sex trafficking and sexual abuse are taken to the CWC, which then makes important decisions on their behalf, including the shelter home where they will be placed and whether their parents can retain custody.

The Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act) outlines the expectations for CWCs, which includes the necessity for them to be ‘child-friendly’. While the JJ Act does not define the term, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) considered the elements of ‘child-friendliness’ to be: adequate time given to children to understand and respond to proceedings, explanation provided to children regarding proceedings, reassurance offered to children, conversation with children to establish rapport, seating of children at the same level as CWC members, non-presence of police in uniform, well-lit room, availability of toys, and attractive pictures in the room.

In an analysis conducted in 2013, the NCPCR stated, “overall then, it appears that ‘child-friendliness’ is an aspect that has been largely ignored during CWC proceedings.”

Recognising the importance of a well-equipped and child-friendly CWC, IJM has been seeking to improve the existing infrastructure of the Mumbai Suburban CWC, which provides services to approximately 3,800 children per year. The recent renovation provides for basic needs, such as access to clean drinking water and a washroom. Victim production before the CWC has also been improved; while children await their turn, they can enjoy the child-friendly play area fitted with toys, books, crafts, seating, and child-friendly entertainment. An automated numbering system for children waiting their turn to meet the CWC has also been introduced and a new counselling room fitted with one-way glass makes children feel secure as they identify the accused in their cases.

The improved CWC premises in Mumbai Suburban was inaugurated on 12 July 2017 by Smt. Vinita Ved Singal, I.A.S., Honorable Secretary of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra. In her inauguration speech, Mrs. Singal said, “I am happy that we have been able to create an environment where every child who is in need of care and protection will be made comfortable. We must always bring a child to a level of comfort before we can ensure further steps for their rehabilitation. Our commitment is to each and every child.”

“This is one of the most significant projects we have undertaken as an organisation to help children in need of care and protection. We hope this can be a model CWC for the nation,” said Yeusdas Naidu, Associate Director of Training and Development, IJM Mumbai.

IJM aims to collaborate with the CWC in Mumbai City, to bring about similar infrastructural changes by the end of November 2017.