Coronavirus outbreak: Kids who were to go home forced to stay back at shelter home amid lockdown

Updated: Apr 16, 2020, 07:39 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, at least 40 kids who were to go home, forced to stay back at observation home in Umerkhadi

After social workers traced their kin, the kids were supposed to go home. Pic/Istock
After social workers traced their kin, the kids were supposed to go home. Pic/Istock

The lockdown imposed across the country in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has separated many from their loved ones. Around 40 rescued children kept at the observation home in Umerkhadi have suffered the same fate. Right before the lockdown, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) had signed off their release, but when all intercity trains were cancelled, they had to stay back at the shelter home.

Rahul Kanthikar, superintendent of the Children's Observation Home, said that while they had released as many as they could, currently, there are 140 children living in the home which includes 26 juvenile criminals or children in conflict with the law. Around 40 such children have been rescued from CSMT and Mumbai Central train stations. They were supposed to go home last month.

Kanthikar said that these children were rescued over the past 2-3 months and after social workers traced their families, they were supposed to be sent back. CWC members had even signed off their release order. "These children are in the age group of 13-18 years and they are mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Some had run away from home and were rescued at train stations while others were rescued from child labour. They were all set to go back to their homes when the lockdown was imposed and all the trains were cancelled," he said.

He added that the children can speak to their families over the phone. "Their families explained to them that they would have to stay until the lockdown and the observation home is the safest place for them right now. Only staff members who stay on the premises are allowed there and no one else is allowed to enter the home. We have also arranged for video counselling for them by a clinical psychologist," said Kanthikar. He added that while few children are being brought to the home in the past couple of weeks, any new entry is made to stay in a separate room for 14 days.

Kids being closely monitored
Milind Bidwai, chairman of the CWC of Mumbai city said that they have been closely monitoring the children to ensure no one gets infected. "We have regular video conferences with the staff to ensure everything runs smoothly. We have put in a request with the ministry (of women and child development) that the kids get priority once trains resume," he said.

Visits by family members have been suspended for all other children at all homes in the city. S A Jadhav, chairperson of the CWC, Mumbai Suburban said that children are worried about their kin. "We talk to the children every day on video conference. They are not allowed to meet their family but they can talk to them twice a month. They are worried about their parents but they understand that it isn't safe for them to come right now," he said.

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