Press "Enter" to skip to content

Care Takers: The Invisible Population


Sehrish Altaf

She was a criminal justice fellow at Centre for Criminology and Justice, TISS, Mumbai 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

-Frederick Douglass

‘Family is the safe haven for children’, is a commonplace saying. Even our national law for safeguarding the rights of the children, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJ act), highlights the importance of bringing up a child in a family. The need for belongingness, comfort, love and a secure space to garner the trustworthy relationships in life is supposed to be provided by a family. Yet the number of children who runaway from their homes or are reported to be abused in those families itself are staggering. At this point the role of state run institutions under JJ act comes into picture. They provide with the state care for those children who find themselves abused and vulnerable within the confines of their own family.

Whilst drawing parallels between the need of the care provided by a family and the system of a state run home for such children, the nearest to care and love giver is that in the form of a Care-Taker in such institutions. Growth and development of the children in institutions relies massively on care takers. These children are mostly from vulnerable backgrounds. They have been pushed to the margins and institutionalization acts as the last resort for them. Distrust, lack of motivation and guidance, and negligence from family members, all reinforce the low self esteem of a child. Thus hindering a holistic growth of a child into an adult.

Care taker is the primary source of contact between a child with this form of institution. As a care giver, showering love and affection to children coming in the institute has to be their basic responsibility. Being the closest and continuous support of a child in the institution, care taker can act as a vital role for progress of a child’s case. Identifying the issues that a child faces, building trust and reliability, a care taker’s role goes beyond just keeping a watch on children.

While considering the roles and responsibilities of a care taker to the children, the notion of their rights and values gets neglected somewhere. A care taker is the most important yet invisible step in this ladder of hierarchy that our systems refuse to take note of.

Children’s Home, Umerkhadi, Mumbai

The Umerkhadi home was established in 1927 by Children’s Aid Society (CAS). It currently houses children from the age of 6 to 18 years. On a yearly basis about 2500 boys and 1000 girls come to the home. On a daily basis average 5-10 children are admitted / released. Children in need of care and protection (CNCP) and children in conflict with law (CCL), both boys and girls, reside here. Boys section and girls section are separate and taken care of by deputy superintendents, housemasters, care takers and guards.

Girls’ section is supervised by a deputy superintendent, matron and a care taking staff of ten women. While the deputy superintendent and the matron live in the premises, the care takers work in shifts. This section has a capacity of holding 150 girls at any given point in time, including CNCP and CCL. The day starts at 6’O clock in the morning with basic morning routine of brushing, bathing and breakfast. The classes start from 9’O clock till 4 in the evening, with three breaks for snacks and lunch in between. Post 4’O clock, children play, watch television and do what they find interest in.

Care takers


While the children are busy with their schedule, care takers take shifts to cater to their roles and responsibilities. Waking children up, getting them ready for classes, serving breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner, keeping note of visitors coming in the section, minding the number of girls coming in and going out, taking attendance, putting them back to beds all form the routine of their work. There are times when they have to attend to more than their routine work. For example, managing the tiffs and huge fights erupting between children, running around to handle the difficult and hyperactive ones, and taking care of needs of children with certain disabilities. While doing all this, they have to respond to the instructions and orders from their superiors. They listen to the abuses by children who are yet to be settled or have certain issues. More often or not, they also come in the line of fire amongst children.

No Value’

All these mentioned issues fall in the ambit of their work. But considering the close knit relationship that a care taker develops with children is somehow limited to taking care only. There is a sense of ‘no value’ to their work with the children. On the trip to SOS Children’s Village, Alibag, one issue which emerged out of the discussion with care takers was that they have no say in the life of a child till they stay in the institution. Under family based care intervention plan of SOS village, they cater to orphans in the age group of 6-12 and provide them with the atmosphere likened to a family and the basic essentials of health, education and care. One housemother looks after ten children, five girls, five boys. They are sent to a nearby school in mornings and afternoons. They have tutorials accordingly for each batch. Varied outdoor activities are provided to them also. Each child has a child care plan developed in consultation with the housemother. Since a house mother lives with the children, she is aware of the development of a child through each day. As such building care plan of a child with the housemother is an appropriate thing. This induces a sense of responsibility and value amongst the house mothers. At SOS, the care takers are backed by the administration and their opinions are sought in the cases of children. All this makes them feel like a stakeholder in the working of the organization and in the life of a child.

The lack of acknowledgement of their work isn’t just attributed to their involvement with children. It has a lot to do with how they are treated by the administration too. If anything bad happens in the institute, they are the scapegoats. With the tie ups of various NGO’s with the institute, many people come in to take various sessions with children. They are the people who come in for an hour or two in a week. They do not live with the children or know their schedule. In such cases, pointing a finger on a care taker who is talking roughly to child is easy. Many such complaints and articles in the newspaper featuring the cruel treatment to children by the staff makes up for a heart wrenching read and a feasible excuse to cry out for child rights. But at that point no one bothers to take a look into the capacity of the staff taking care of these children. At full capacity, there is one care taker for almost 50 children. And we are not taking in account the children who are in school. We are talking of children from vulnerable backgrounds who are in a confined space of institutions like Children’s Home, Umerkhadi. Tempers and emotions run high. Attention demanded and sought by each child has to be met by one individual who isn’t just responsible for them but various other things in and out of that space.

Personal Front

While talking about their responsibilities as care takers, their role outside this space is not considered. Being a mother, a daughter, a wife who acts as an earning hand in a family; has to handle issues besides the routine of children’s home. The life of a care taker isn’t miserable just because of the lack of acknowledgement, inadequate trainings or being made the scapegoat every time something goes wrong in the institute, she is denied a timely salary for her work too. There is no clarity on their belongingness to the government or to the CAS. They are made to work as per the mandates of the government but when it comes to receiving the perks that are due under working with government, they are denied even that. This confusion plays up almost every time when they seek leave, transfer or promotion. The selective treatment on job front creates ripples in their domestic life as well. Frustrations from both ends find misplaced outlets. It plays with their health and inter personal relations. A human being simply cannot be expected to be calm and composed constantly under all conditions. When there are ripples in different dimensions in ones life, its effects are felt throughout.


Tackling children and managing them day in and day out has a lot to do with how the staff is trained too. Trainings based on JJ act or POCSO will make the staff efficient in terms of their dealings with children through law. But the aspect of child care with a background of trauma and abuse is not dealt with in trainings. Even though the age group that CH deals with is 6-18 years, they do not have trainings based on dealing with adolescent age group either. There is an evident gap in the working knowledge of the staff. Being aware of one’s roles and responsibilities is not training. It is a refresher course for the staff with regard to their job specification. Trainings should be based on the nature of the job and the subject to be handled. E.g, With zero tolerance for child abuse, the housemothers in SOS village tackle the fights, irrational behavior or any other thing related to a child which can create problems for other children in the house. With the number of trainings that they undergo, understanding a child and how to deal with different phases of a child is also one of the themes that they cover. They need to be well versed in the basics of child and adolescent psychology as well as the concepts of dealing with trauma and abuse, that these kids are mostly subjected to previously in their lives.

The trainings mandated for the staff on yearly basis are also not regular. There is no set module for the training either. There has to be a mechanism whereby the administration knows the gaps in the working of their staff and upgrade their trainings annually. E.g, the issues related to children with special needs, homosexuality, unwed mothers, etc need to be deliberated upon and a discourse has to be started amongst their staff to not just familiarize them to changing child rights scenario worldwide but also make them aware about severat other converging themes in relation to child rights.

What can be done?

When the children first arrive in the institute, care takers are the ones to whom they first open up to. They are the ones who know few things which even the PO’s don’t know at times. If it could be managed in any way, the care takers could be a great source of documenting the first hand information from the children and at later time, it can be verified too as the process goes along. This of course will have to become a part of the annual trainings. There is a need to acknowledge their relentless work on ground zero. It’s about time that the management realizes the need to take on board their ground staff to help them run things smoothly throughout the system. You cannot run a system in a top-down approach and expect the outcome to be satisfactory. A bottoms-up approach has to be taken to help the system cater to child rights to the letter.

With changing world scenario, child rights are widely discussed. With huge number of children crossing international borders as refugees from war struck countries, children trafficked for sex and low wage labour, children employed as child soldiers, etc, it’s time that we gear up our systems to cater to their forlorn childhoods and also take lesson from the upcoming scene of child development that are being followed worldwide. Our children deserve that.


Leave a Reply


  1. minecraft October 4, 2018

    Hey would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet
    browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.
    Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a fair price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!

  2. minecraft October 5, 2018

    I’m not certain where you’re getting your information, however great topic.
    I must spend some time finding out more or working out more.

    Thanks for excellent info I was searching for this info for my

  3. minecraft October 6, 2018

    This info is invaluable. When can I find out more?

  4. minecraft October 6, 2018

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.
    Thanks a lot!

  5. This is the right website for anyone who wants to find
    out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with
    you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic
    which has been written about for decades. Excellent stuff, just great!

  6. minecraft free download 2018 October 10, 2018

    whoah this weblog is magnificent i really like studying your
    posts. Stay up the great work! You know, many persons are looking
    around for this info, you can help them greatly.

  7. online dating tips October 14, 2018

    I spent four years trying EVERYTHING in Online Dating, and through a huge amount of trial and error, I produced a system that I will share for you. This book will take you, step by step, through everything you need to know to double, triple or even quadruple the number of women you meet online.

  8. tinder dating site October 18, 2018

    Valuable info. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance, and I am stunned why this coincidence did not happened earlier!
    I bookmarked it.

  9. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across
    this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.
    I hope to give something back and aid others like you
    aided me.

  10. Benefits of Coconut Oil October 23, 2018

    Very rapidly this web site will be famous among all blog visitors, due to
    it’s fastidious articles or reviews

  11. Coconut Oil Benefits October 25, 2018

    I loved as much as you will receive carried out right
    here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very
    often inside case you shield this hike.

  12. Coconut Oil October 25, 2018

    Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a difficult
    time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most
    blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  13. I blog quite often and I genuinely appreciate your information. This article
    has truly peaked my interest. I will take
    a note of your blog and keep checking for
    new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  14. I like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to

  15. Wow, fantastic blog structure! How long have you ever been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The full look of your site is excellent,
    as smartly as the content material!

  16. Excellent web site you have here.. It’s hard to
    find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate individuals like you!

    Take care!!

  17. Descargar facebook
    I relish, lead to I found exactly what I used to
    be taking a look for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt!
    God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye descargar facebook

  18. The relentless standards of Gerrard are reflected in the pre-season facts and figures. Five Rangers games — three of them in Europa League qualifiers — have now wrought five clean sheets and 12 goals. Steven Gerrard hungry for Rangers to improve after slow first half in victory against Wigan: ‘We were second-best, disjointed, not organised’

  19. quest bars cheap November 5, 2018

    quest bars cheap fitnesstipsnew1 quest bars cheap 516999410492780544 quest bars cheap
    Very shortly this site will be famous amid all blogging and
    site-building people, due to it’s nice content quest bars cheap fitnesstipsnew1 quest bars cheap 516999410492780544 quest
    bars cheap

  20. Sling TV November 11, 2018

    Hello there! This article couldn’t be written any better!

    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I’ll forward this article to him.

    Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  21. I am really loving the theme/design of your web site.
    Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?

    A handful of my blog audience have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer
    but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any suggestions to help fix this problem?

  22. Sling tv coupons and promo codes for november 2018
    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I’m going to return yet again since
    I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to
    change, may you be rich and continue to guide others. Sling tv coupons and promo codes for november 2018

  23. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I
    am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep
    us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *