A very large number of children live in out-of- home care settings in South Asia and it is invariably State's obligation to make adequate efforts to support such children in realizing their full potential. Alternative Care for Children (ACC) is an umbrella of care and protection to look after all such children, which ensures that they are not further exposed to risk and vulnerability of abuse, abandonment, neglect or exploitation. In order to focus on such vulnerable children, Udayan Care in collaboration with Amity University, Noida will organize the 3rd Biennial International Conference on March 16, 17, 2018. The conference will bring together about 250 participants from around 18 countries.
The participating stakeholders will push the agenda of improving this situation on alternative care of children to the centre stage in the governments of South Asian countries and develop a common regional framework to track progress of implementing the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care. The conference aims to sustain dialogue and sharing of experiences at the South Asian level; chronicle and explore the evolving trends in the region; and bring together individuals and professionals involved in providing care and protection to OHC children in the region and other parts of the globe.
An estimated 43 million children (out of 153 million globally) who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia. Interestingly, many reports have also found that children living in alternative care settings are not all orphans and may have living parent/s or family members to take care of them. However, they face issues of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment by their biological relatives, or continue to live in dysfunctional families. Neither of these situations is in the best interest of children.
South Asia as a region is also prone to natural disasters and conflict, which increases the risk of children being pushed to Alternative Care.
"There is a need to carry forward the regional thinking of how to prevent and mitigate this heightened risk and vulnerability to violence, abuse and neglect of children in South Asia, which was initiated in 2014 at the first conference. Many organizations are doing amazing work to secure rights of such children. We need to join hands and address this multifaceted problem collectively," says Dr. Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee, Udayan Care.
Global experience has clearly demonstrated that ACC, in order to be successful and protect children's rights, can be a highly complex and multi-faceted process. It requires careful planning at all levels and close involvement of all stakeholders and role players. Deliberations and discussions with experts, scholars, civil societies, government officials, legal professionals, social workers, practitioners, advocates and medical professionals will help us take stock and chart the road towards a common South Asian regional agenda for a robust system on ACC.
Although these meetings have begun to expand the knowledge base on alternative care in our region, there is much more that is needed. The 3rd BICON is being held primarily with the following objectives a) improve knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings in South Asia; b) examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on ACC in South Asia; c) share and exchange experiences, research and models of care on ACC in South Asia; d) identify challenges and opportunities related to the shift away from institutional care to de- institutionalisation in South Asia; and e) create a network of like-minded organizations to advance the advocacy work of implementation of policy measures on alternative care in South Asia.