Catching a break with ‘Aftercare’ programme

WCD Department with Hindustan Latex trust prepares children and young adults for independent living

WCD Department with Hindustan Latex trust prepares children and young adults for independent living

Sapna (name changed) was still reeling from the shock of her brother’s suicide when she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother and uncle for her father was ill and mother had to go to work to put food on the table. Her uncle abused her for years, but her kin refused to believe her. She lived scared and isolated, until one day it all came out in school, and she was shifted to a home under the Women and Child Development Department. A couple of years later, she moved into the department’s after-care home for those above the age of 18. By this time, a deeply traumatised Sapna had tried to end her life multiple times.

She finally caught a break when psychologists visited the home as part of an ‘Aftercare’ programme implemented by the department with technical support of the Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, a unit of HLL Lifecare Ltd., to prepare children above 15 and young adults above 18 for independent living.

Hours of counselling were followed by various assessments. It was found that Sapna had no desire to live or any goals for her future. Her academic and social skills were inadequate and her reasoning and decision-making abilities were poor. Sapna was provided therapy and cognitive retraining. Slowly, progress was achieved. Life skill and soft skill training were followed by vocational training and skilling. Since she liked cleaning and organising, she was trained in housekeeping, and guided to a vacancy where she did well in the interview and joined work last summer.

Anil Kumar, State Programme Manager, Social Development, HLL Lifecare, says many of the children in need of care and protection or in conflict with law in the department institutions are highly vulnerable, and have a range of behavioural and academic difficulties. They have little or no social or functional skills.

Usually, these children and young adults would move into other homes for adults and remain dependent on the government system their entire lives. The Aftercare programme is designed to ensure their smooth rehabilitation and reintegration into society as they move into adulthood.

The programme was piloted in two children’s homes and two after-care homes for either sex in Kannur and Kozhikode districts in November 2020. Following assessments, individual care plans were prepared for 128 home residents, and they were provided counselling and mentoring. Those pursuing their studies such as younger children were encouraged to go ahead, while vocational training was provided to others.

By the time the first phase was completed in December 2021, 28 candidates had been placed in sectors such as beauty and wellness, food and beverage services, front office management, health care and so on.

After his father’s death, young Adarsh (name changed) had lived in one home after another before reaching the after-care home. He had also worked a few small jobs. He dithered when Manna M. Leghu, a psychologist with the Aftercare programme, reached out to him, but finally said yes to vocational training. After assessments and trainings, he is now placed with a company as an automobile body technician.

Says Ms. Leghu, “Those above 18 who have left the government homes are now living independently. While most are orphans, some are taking care of their families. All of them continue to work, and a few have been promoted.”

Today, these young adults have begun to look ahead and dream about their future. Adarsh says he wants to learn all that he can so that one day, he can go abroad and then return home to open his own small shop and support his family. He is now looking forward to a salary hike and incentive.

Like Adarsh, Sapna is determined she will secure a supervisor’s position and save enough money to go abroad. She takes pride in doing her job well and feels housekeeping is nothing to be looked down upon. The Aftercare programme, she says, helped her realise that things were not impossible if one put in hard work and embraced positivity.

Phase 2 of the programme is set to begin in April. This phase will involve capacity building of child protection functionaries working in institutions and in non-institutional care management for seamless operations in future. Another goal is to provide good social support to those who have got placements, through an aftercare outreach programme. The programme will also be extended to all 14 districts in the State.

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