THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Five years ago when David, who then turned 18, left the State-run Children's Home in the capital it was as if he had gone missing. The state has no idea what David had done with his life after he left the home. Unlike most others who left children's homes after 18, David did not fall into crime. But, like most of them, he stopped studying. He took up menial jobs, and got frequently beaten up. It was second nature for the local police to pick him up for crimes he had not committed. He was always in the open; he rested under the shade of public buildings in the afternoon and slept in bus stands and railway stations. It was only when he contracted tuberculosis that he got a proper bed to sleep.
The state government has finally decided not to send out more Davids into the world. ‘After-care’ homes, where the homeless who have attained adulthood will be lodged, will be started in all districts in the state. At the moment, there is just one after-care home for males, in Thalassery. This home has just 10-12 inmates though it is meant for 50. “The low intake does not mean there is low requirement for such a facility. It just shows that it is out of bounds for many who desperately need a roof over their head,” a top Social Justice official said. The Department has already asked for the list of boys above the age of 16 who require after-care shelter in all the 14 children's homes in the state.
Except for the Thalassery home, the other after-care homes and shelter homes are for girls and women. “The boys, too, have the right to lead a dignified life. It is the state's obligation to provide such an opportunity,” the official said. This is no favour either, as the Juvenile Justice Act itself had laid down the “sustained care” concept for both boys and girls. At the after-care homes, these teenagers who had come out of children's homes will be allowed to continue their education, and would also be provided vocational training. “Not only would these homes help them secure a decent living, if necessary these homes would also organise their marriages,” the official said.