What we do
SATHI’s work primarily revolves around two themes – “early intervention” and “restoration of separated children back to family”. Early intervention means contacting or rescuing a child within one or two days of the child’s arrival on the platform; before it has a prolonged exposure to the risks of street life. Restoration of a child back to its family follows the basic principle of “home” being the best place for a child to live and grow. SATHI’s programs are made up of the following components
Rescuing children from railway platforms
At each of SATHI’s project locations, a team of 4 to 5 outreach workers patrol the railway stations every day for 8 to 10 hours looking for and identifying missing/lost children, children unaccompanied by adults, children who appear to move in an unfamiliar area or suspected to be trafficked, etc. These children are contacted in a friendly manner and motivated to come to the safety of a shelter. The shelters are normally located close to the station. The children are transferred with the information and support of the local railway authorities – Government Railway Police (GRP) and/or Railway Protection Force (RPF).
Shelter-care, counselling and guidance
Once a child is brought to the shelter, it is given basic facilities including food, clothing, medicines (if required) and washing facilities. Through a series of activities and casual interactions, the child is made to feel comfortable. The counsellors at the shelters then have sessions with the child to understand his reasons for being away from the family and try to motivate the child to go back to the care and affection of his family.
Children who have recently run away from home usually respond well to our program and share details about their families quickly. Most children stay in the shelters for 2 to 3 days after which they are either reunited with families or are referred to other institutions for further care and counselling.
Address-tracing and restoration
Based on the information given by the child, his address is traced and family contacted. In many cases, the child provides a contact number or the name of his village. With this the parents are contacted directly or through the police network. In some cases a combination of efforts such as using internet and social media, contacting other NGOs or institutions, team members’ own personal network of contacts result in successful address tracing.
The families are invited to come to the shelter to receive their children. This provides us an opportunity to interact deeply with the parents / guardians about the problems of the child, reasons for separation and care plan for the future. We recommend restoration of the child back with its family if it meets the following criteria:
- Child must be willing to go home
- There must be at least one person in the family to look after the child with care and affection
- Child must have a space for learning and growth
- Basic needs of the child are met (food, clothing, shelter)
- The real reason for separation is identified and addressed
- There are no or minimal chances of repetition of separation
The final decision with regard to restoration of the child rests with the Child Welfare Committee of the respective districts. In case the children cannot be sent back to family, they are referred to the Govt. Children’s Home or any other institution for further care and protection.
Home Orientation camps for children
Children who have been out of home for a long duration of have certain behavioral issues such as habitually running away from home, aggressive or rough attitude, history of substance abuse, etc. need a more intensive intervention. For such children, SATHI conducts a 1-month residential Home Orientation Camp.
The camp comprises a wide range of activities for the children including exercises and mediation, informal classes, story telling sessions, games and physical activities, sessions on health, hygiene, drug abuse, etc. and cultural activities. There are many reflective sessions built into the camp structure, which allow the children to reflect on their own lives, behavior, habits and make them think about their future. The four weeks of a camp are structured in a way that starts from adjusting to the new environment and building relations to understanding their own situations and prospects to realization of their responsibilities towards themselves, family and society and finally preparing them towards family life.
During the last week of the camp, their families are traced and parents are told about the behavioral changes in their wards. The camps come to a closure with an emotional reunion ceremony with many tears of joy and relief.
We select about 25 to 30 children for a camp and a team of 4 to 5 camp instructors reside with them during the entire duration. The camp protocol and modules were developed and evolved by Dr. Shekhar Sheshadri, renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist from NIMHANS and Fr. George Kollashany from Bosco, who has innumerable years of experience working with street children.
Restoration of children staying in Govt. Homes
SATHI engages with Govt. Children Homes across the country to help children who have been staying in the homes for long duration reunite with their families. We approach the respective state governments for access to the homes for identifying children who are not in contact with families or those in whose cases address tracing efforts were not successful or children who are unwilling to open up. Our counsellors engage with such children and after sustained efforts, many of their families are found and children are restored.
An important component of our work in government homes is to sensitize the Govt. Home staff and involve them in the restoration process, so that they are able to help more children themselves. Over the years, we are happy to note that more children are being restored through the initiatives of the government home staff.
Follow-up and post-restoration support
After children are restored, we follow-up with children and their families for up to 1 year after restoration. In the follow-up, we try to ascertain whether the child is staying at home and what is the child primarily engaged in. Our experience from telephonic follow-up over the years shows that more than 85% of the children continue to stay back at home.
We also conduct physical home-visits of children as part of follow-up to check the status of the children. These are usually in the form of studies wherein we identify 50 to 100 children from different categories, especially children from difficult situations or children who could not be contacted on phone. The follow-up exercises helps us identify children who are in need of support to continue their education. The organization provides some support to such children in the form of fees, education material, etc. to the extent possible.