Key Objectives Of The 3rd BICON
About the 3rd Biennial International Conference (BICON)
It is well established that irrespective of class, caste, creed, religion, country or time, children develop best when they grow in a family, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) actively serves to strengthen family life for all children, and posits the family as the cornerstone for the realization of children‟s rights and their optimum development1. Efforts to ensure non-separation of children from parents are emphasized unless such separation is necessary and in the best interest of the child. Governments are, thus, duty bound to provide the necessary services, support and facilities to families to enable them to adequately care for children3. The United Nations General Assembly Guidelines for the Alternative Care of children (UNGACC) mandates preventive actions and measures to be employed so that children do not get from separated from their families, except when it is not in the best interest of the child. Family strengthening to make families capable of taking care of their children is thus of paramount importance.
The theme of the 3rd BICON is ‘Evolving Trends in Alternative Care for children and youth in South Asia'. The focus themes for the conference are:
- Family strengthening, sponsorship & gatekeeping in South Asia
- Standards of Care in child care institutions, foster Care, aftercare (including group foster care/small group homes) in South Asia.
- Deinstitutionalisation: Concept, strategy & implications in South Asia
At the same time, it is a reality that often families face external pressures that challenge their ability to appropriately care for children and often these can be extreme circumstances such as parental death, disasters (natural/manmade), armed/ internal conflicts and wars and children are separated from their birth families. Children deprived of care by birth parents or at the risk of being separated are often pushed to growing up in out-of-home-care (OHC) settings or referred to as ‘looked after’ children because their care and protection becomes the responsibility of the State. In all such situations, Alternative Care for Children (ACC) is an umbrella of care and protection that is present across the world to look after all such children living in OHC settings that ensure that they are not further exposed to risk and vulnerability of abuse, abandonment, neglect or exploitation. It is thus the State obligation to make adequate efforts for the realisation of their full potential as children. Where-ever possible, the UNGAC mandates steps to be taken towards restoration of children back to their families and if that is not possible, to explore options of care to be provided by the extended family or community with support from outside to be empowered to care for the child. Programs such as kinship care and community based care should be always encouraged in such situations. Only when the above options are optimally explored and fail should the child be given in for care under ACC with provisions of such care being temporary, dynamically reviewed from time to time, individually best suited for the child and the care system ensures minimum standard of care. ACC is in a way critical to reduce any further risk or vulnerability of the child. Irrespective of the type of care, ACC should always be effective, efficient, necessary, suitable and in the best interest of children. In the continuum of care, ACC also includes the phase of transitioning of young adults out of care to independent living (also known as Aftercare). Provisions for Aftercare is a must to ensure that the young adult has adequate support to be able to become independent and resilient and not fall back to the same cycle of vulnerability.
In the context of South Asia, an estimated 43 million children (out of 153 million globally) who have lost one or both parents, live in South Asia. Many reports have also found that all children living in ACC settings are not orphans and have living parent/s or family members to take care of them. On the other side, there are issues of children who are abused, neglected or abandoned by their biological families or live in dysfunctional families and neither of these situations is in their best interest. South Asia as a region is also prone to natural disasters and conflict, which increases the risk of children being pushed to Alternative Care and there is need for regional thinking of how to prevent and mitigate this heightened risk and vulnerability to violence, abuse and neglect of children in South Asia. Issues of low resiliency and neglected mental health care across all forms of ACC in South Asia are also a concern. All countries in the South Asian region needs strengthening on almost all domains. Till date, we hardly have data of how many children live in OHC in each of the South Asian (SA) countries. There is dearth of evidence based research studies and authentic segregated data on the issue in the region. Not many academic studies are available in this regard. At the same time, there are models of care prevalent in the region that can be seen as best practices and be up-scaled, but are not documented or widely shared. Countries can learn from each other, given the cultural similarities in the region. The SA countries stand at different levels on laws and policies and there is a complete lack of a regional level co-operation or mechanism on this critical aspect of child protection.
Keeping the above in mind, the biennial international conferences (BICON) has a strong focus on South Asia. The 1st BICON was focused on “Standards of Care and Mental Health for Children in Institutional Care” while the 2nd BICON was titled ‘Improving Standards of Care for Alternative Child and Youth Care: Systems, Policies and Practices’. Global experience has clearly demonstrated that ACC in order to be successful and protect children’s rights can be a highly complex and multi-faceted process. It requires careful planning at all levels and close involvement of all stakeholders and role players. Deliberations and discussions with experts, academicians, civil societies, government officials, legal professionals, social workers, practioners, advocates and medical professionals will help us take stock and chart the road towards a common South Asian regional agenda for a robust system on ACC. Although these meetings have begun to expand the knowledge base in our region on alternative care, there is much more that is needed. But there is a need to sustain the efforts made so far as the issue of Alternative Care remains critical as the numbers of children affected keeps increasing. The 3rd BICON is thus a step towards bringing all stakeholders together as a collective to push the agenda of making this issue centre stage in the governments of these countries and develop a common regional framework to track progress of implementing the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care. Now scheduled on March 16-17, 2018, the 3rd BICON aims to sustain this dialogue and sharing of experiences at the South Asian region on ACC. It aims to explore and take stock of the evolving trends in the region and bring together those involved in providing care and protection to OHC children in the region as well as other parts of the globe. It looks at understanding existing models of care and evolving trends to bring out issues, dilemmas and challenges of transition, application of deinstitutionalisation in South Asia, concepts of trauma informed care and mental health aspects of OHC children. z
The 3rd BICON is being held primarily with the following objectives:
- Improve knowledge and understanding on alternative care settings in South Asia
- Examine gaps in existing standards, legislative and policy frameworks on ACC in South Asia
- Share and exchange experiences, research and models of care on ACC in South Asia
- Identify challenges related to shift away from institutional care to Deinstitutionalisation in South Asia and what is best for our children
- Create a network of likeminded organizations to advance the advocacy work of implementation of policy measures on alternative care in South Asia.
Will consist of inaugural sessions, two main plenary sessions and a valedictory session
Will consist of plenary sessions and group discussions on the main three sub themes of the conference. Thus, parallel sessions on both days will be conducted on:
- Parallel Workshop 1: Deinstitutionalisation: Concept, strategy & Implications in South Asia
- Parallel Workshop 2: Family strengthening, Gatekeeping & sponsorships in South Asia
- Parallel Workshop 3: Standards of Care in Foster Care, Adoption, Aftercare (including Group Foster Care/small group homes & role of faith-based org.) in South Asia
There will be a core group (group leader, facilitator and moderators) for each parallel workshop and subject experts will share their thoughts as a panel after which group interactions and participation of all will be encouraged.
Posters, being a popular feature at the 2nd BICON, will once again be on display at the Foyer of the Amity University (Conference venue) throughout on both days of the 3rd BICON. Like last time, all posters will be judged by a panel set up by the Steering Committee and the best 3 posters will be awarded at the closing session on Day 2 of the conference.
Select small but thought provoking documentaries of not more than five minutes shall be screened at appropriate intervals.
Follow Up Plan
A final report of the proceedings (including the key conclusions and recommendations for action) will be submitted to the governments and civil society organizations of all participating countries. The 3rd BICON will also be followed up by the setting up of a network of likeminded people in South Asia as a body to advise action and follow up on outcomes of the conference. There will also be regional committee constituted (South Asia Association on Alternative Care for Children) to take over the responsibility of the 4th BICON, which most likely will take place in Sri-Lanka.
Delhi Working Group