Scarcity of child-friendly resources poses a challenge to Kaval Plus programme


As Kaval Plus, the community-based rehabilitation programme for survivors of child sexual abuse, enters its third phase, extending services to three more districts, the scarcity of child-friendly resources is posing a major challenge.

Kaval Plus State coordinator Aparna Narayanan told The Hindu that there were barely any de-addiction centres or psychiatric wards for children in the State. “We are forced to refer the children to de-addiction centres and psychiatric wards for adults. Parents are often offended by this, owing to the social stigma, and refuse to send their children for treatment,” she said, adding that if children with behavioural issues and those suffering from trauma were taken to adult wards, their sufferings would intensify, defeating the very purpose of treatment.

She said that providing at least one room for children in such wards would prove beneficial. The availability of the services of a child psychiatrist or psychiatric social worker in every district hospital at least once a week will help.

The issue has been brought to the attention of Health Minister Veena George, who is also the Minister for Woman and Child Welfare. “The Minister has assured that arrangements will be made soon in the government sector. However, scarcity of psychiatrists in government service and lack of infrastructure are slowing down the process,” said Ms. Narayanan.

Kaval Plus was launched in 2020 to address issues facing children in need of care and protection as well as survivors of child sexual abuse. The one-of-its-kind project in the country addresses social, psychological, financial, and educational needs of children through multiple interventions. The system prefers to train families of the children to render the right kind of support rather than shifting them to care homes, where they mostly do not get one-to-one attention.

The programme, which has been implemented in eight districts, has been able to address the needs of over 1,500 children since 2020, of whom more than 1,300 have completed their assessment. Case workers had to reach out to more than 1,000 families to explain the psychological state of the survivor and ways to handle it without being rude. Almost an equal number of children were given individual counselling too.

“Our case workers often stay with the children until the end of the trial and sometimes beyond in order to provide them emotional support during the trial so that they do not quiver and retract their statements in the court,” said Subheesh Theyyambadi, State project officer of Kaaval Plus. The help of District Legal Services Authorities is sought whenever necessary.


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