Over 200 participants from 18 countries exchanged knowledge and experience in the field of alternative care for children in South Asia, as part of a two-day conference in Noida that also sought to examine the gaps in legislation frameworks in the region.
In order to focus on vulnerable children, who live in out-of-home care settings, Udayan Care in collaboration with Amity University, organised the 3rd Biennial International Conference that ended today.
"An estimated 43 million children (out of 153 million globally) who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia," the organisers said in a statement.
A very large number of children live in out-of-home care settings in South Asia. It is invariably state's obligation to make adequate efforts to support such children in realising their full potential, it said.
Alternative care for children 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.
The conference brought together about 250 participants from around 18 countries, organisers said.
"The participating stakeholders pushed 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 understanding on implementation of the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care so as to improve knowledge on alternative care settings in South Asia," it added.
The conference aimed to improve knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings in South Asia, and examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on alternative care for children in the region.
Besides, participants exchanged experiences, research and models of care in South Asia.
Director of programmes and global advocacy, Hope and Homes for Children, the UK, Delia Pop, in the keynote address, focused on the importance of gatekeeping, that is ensuring institutionalisation is the last resort for a child, the statement said.
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 or abandonment by their biological relatives, or continue to live in dysfunctional families, it said.
South Asia as a region is also prone to natural disasters and conflict, which increases the risk of children being pushed to alternative care, it said.
The conference also sought to identify challenges and opportunities related to the shift away from institutional care to de-institutionalisation in South Asia; and to create a network of like-minded organisations to advance the advocacy work of implementation of policy measures on alternative care in South Asia.
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