Empowering the young at risk
Care and education of marginalised children and youth to foster new beginnings
The term Young at Risk describes children and youth who are at high risk of losing their required care and protection. Though all children are more vulnerable than adults, exposure to risk can be viewed asa spectrum. The Young at Risk (YaR) find themselves on the severe end of the vulnerability spectrum. This population includes children from slums and on the street; children with disabilities; children from oppressed castes; children with HIV-AIDS, amongst others. They routinely face abuse, violence and exploitation which makes them susceptible to substance abuse as a means of escape. The lack of a social security net allows every crisis or shock to impact them with disabling outcomes.
The Don Bosco Network offers a gamut of services to address the complexity and severity of this issue, to reintegrate the young at risk into mainstream society. To address systemic gaps, the Don Bosco Network works in a holistic manner for child protectionthrough prevention, intervention and rehabilitation.
1. Rescue and Protection
Seventy-two YaR centers across India operate rescue booths in railway stations, bus stands and other locations where such children congregate.Night shelters, drop-in centers and shelter homes offer temporary care and protection for them.A software application, Homelink, has been developed to create a national database for tracking these vulnerable youngsters, to help them find their way home again, according to their best interests.
These initiatives have led to the rescue of 173,134* missing children; repatriation of 64,928* missing children and the addressing of 39,235* complaints of missing children.
2. Educational Rehabilitation
Education plays a crucial role in the emancipation of the Young at Risk.YaR centers across India invest in the education of vulnerable children through numerous customisedprogrammes.Some of these include street and slum literacyprogrammes; after-school education, educational support for at-risk children to prevent dropouts.
3. Institutional Care
Children who are bereft of parental or family care are provided with long-term institutional care through the shelter homes, group foster care homes, and children villages of the Don Bosco Network. These 72 YaR centers function according to the prescribed guidelines of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, and many of them claim the fit institution status under the law. Over the years, 44,659* children have been in the long-term care of the Don Bosco network.
4. Awareness Generation and Advocacy
Prevention is an essential component of intervention for the Young at Risk. YaR centers generate awareness of child rights through street theatre, campaigns, posters and such. Advocacy is taken up through PILs, RTIs, signature campaigns etc.
50,000* children from rural and urban villages were empowered through rights-based education programmes. 16,734* child rights centers involving the participation of 93,607* children are functional.
The Don Bosco Network in India comprises of 11 Planning and Development Organisations (PDOs), each dedicated to the development of the Salesian provinces they serve. The Don Bosco network is spread across 29 states and 354 NGOs, reaching more than 10 lakh people.