The deinstitutionalisation debate in India : throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Ramaswamy, Sheila and Seshadri, Shekhar (2020) The deinstitutionalisation debate in India : throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 19 (2). ISSN 1478-1840

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In recent times, India has joined the growing global consensus on the need to promote family-based alternatives to institutional care for children. However, despite the UN Guidelines' push for deinstitutionalisation, and in theory, our agreement with its position, it is critical to examine what principles of 'necessity', 'child's best interests', and 'appropriateness' mean in practice and how they actually play out in systemic decisions about alternative care. It makes a case for moving towards feasible forms of residential care for its vulnerable children, rather than merely pushing for de-institutionalization agendas. In order to do this, it provides contexts of institutionalisation and the current state of child care institutions in India; considers child rights and child-centric approaches that take into account children's viewpoints and preferences on placement-related matters; and finally presents the functional challenges of adoption and foster care systems and the limitations in systemic capacities of child welfare systems in the country. The article highlights the importance of making decisions about (de)institutionalisation not only through child care reforms, policies and systems but more critically, through children's participation in their residential and care arrangements, by dialoguing with them to understand their unique situations and universes, their aspirations and desires.

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