This paper takes valuable lessons from a community-care setting with perspectives from Indian culture. The analysis started with a narrative of the background of Udayan Care, especially as compared to the institutionalized care given by the government and private homes in India and the West. Although the Western model influenced Udayan Care, Dr. Kiran Modi, founder of Udayan, ensured that the organization and its dedicated volunteers and staff could provide the love and care that the orphans and abandoned children truly deserve. Such love and care are not usually present in institutionalized care settings, but they are emphasized at Udayan Care. By comparing the two care settings, it is evident that institutionalized care is not suitable for the present environment, given that these children and adolescents are victims of abuse, rape, and other forms of violence at home and in their neighborhood.
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Not all foster homes and institutions delivering care to orphans and abused and abandoned children and adults provide the quality of care that the beneficiaries deserve. Institutionalized care does not apply to the Udayan Care environment, given that the children and adolescents have mostly experienced abuse and violence from family members or the neighborhood. Also, the unique features of Indian culture should be considered when giving care to children.
A constantly debated subject over the past few decades has been how to care for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) around a wide world made smaller by technology. Many practitioners in the field of caregiving would like to see a combination of global and individual strategies that differ in degree of viability due to cultural, political, and economic factors. Global strategies entail a combination of governmental, local, and family-based factors that encourage more international responsibilities to protect and care for orphaned and vulnerable children (Hunter & Williamson, 2000). In terms of individual strategies, they depend on responsible individuals to care for a child’s mental health, education, and daily living needs and to ensure the child’s protection from further harm or neglect (Hunter & Williamson, 2000).
The problem is: How can we examine and improve Udayan Care, and what can other countries learn from what is taking place in a developing country like India? Are Udayan Ghars, or homes, sustainable, meaning that they can withstand the test of time and ensure that their children have a bright future after being nurtured by parental love and care?
The immediate issues that need to be addressed are reflected by the troubling worldwide statistics that have to be reduced, a strategy that Dr. Kiran Modi envisioned from the beginning when she started Udayan Care. According to recent statistics, more than 16,000 children die each day from preventable or treatable causes, an adolescent female dies every ten minutes due to violent abuse, and almost half of all deaths in children under the age of five are caused by malnutrition (UNICEF, 2015 as cited in Dyette, 2016). Although the death rate of children has been significantly reduced in recent years, the statistics are still considered high; moreover, the deaths of children due to violence are increasing because of growing international conflicts (Dyette, 2016).
The current research literature on the institutionalization of care is largely focused on Western countries. Despite the vast literature, the follow-through on recommendations from such research is relatively scarce. Most orphanages worldwide are modeled after the Western foster care model, but in India, the institutionalized care model must fit with Indian culture and society, which has occurred with some success and some areas for ongoing development.
Research has shown that orphans and abandoned children who have no resources or help to turn to can become offenders or criminals and are further vulnerable to abuses such as child labor, prostitution, and other social problems. They need help, but in many countries, adoption rates are notably low (Modi, Nayar-Akhtar, Gupta, & Sohini Karmakar, n.d.).
Udayan Care is different – it has passed the test of time, and the outcomes of their home care model have been very fruitful. Graduates of their programs have excelled in their chosen careers and professions, and many of them are now helping new children using financial support and mentoring.
Udayan Care is also supported by many sectors of society – academia, government, and private institutions have all provided support, counseling, and resources for the success of Udayan Care’s mission and vision. Udayan Care came from humble beginnings, founded by Dr. Modi, whose son was a supporter of abused children in Africa. Like her son, she envisioned a significant reduction in the number of orphans and abandoned children in India.
Organizational growth for Udayan Care has been a long-time dream of Dr. Modi, and growth means professionalizing the workforce and making the non-profit organization a more sustainable one. She has gone through many difficulties with Udayan Care, and she hopes that she is on her way to attaining the growth she seeks for the organization. Making it sustainable means it could withstand the challenges of funding and establishing Ghars, or homes, throughout different regions and cities of India. Professionalizing the workforce means keeping them motivated as Udayan Care looks after its well-planned career development. The untimely death of a leading Indian industrialist and philanthropist, who was a supportive mentor to Dr. Modi, was a big loss to the organization (Olasky, 1999).
The reality in the international scene
Various research studies have revealed that institutional care is an arrangement that is harmful to children; as such, alternatives should be sought immediately, and institutional care should be modified or done away with as soon as possible (Dozier, Zeanah, Wallin, & Shauffer, 2011). In the context of research and policy, institutional care represents a formal and purposefully created setting in which a child is neither a part of a home nor lives with guardians or family members; instead, the state acts as some form of the guardian.
Previous research has shown that institutions share other common features such as “high child to caregiver ratios; caregivers with low wages and little education or training who work rotating shifts; regimented and non-individualized care; and a lack of psychological investment in the children” (Dozier et al., 2011, p. 4). Although Dozier et al.’s (2011) research was undertaken with a recognition that foster care settings frequently fail children and that some research has indicated the possibility that institutional care may be much worse than alternative care settings, they concluded that institutional care was not a good setting for children (Rhodes, Orme, & Buehler, 2001).
Udayan Care is a non-profit organization that provides foster care for children and youth, including disadvantaged and abused children and women, in various cities of India. The organization was registered in 1994 and has expanded rapidly to Australia, United States, and Germany. Udayan Care has recently received the National Award for Child Care from the president of India. Like other non-profit organizations, Udayan Care survives through donations and fundraising projects. The organization has to spend only a minimum of two percent of the three-year average net profit on social welfare projects. Udayan Care hires professionals for key positions; recently, Dr. Modi hired a chief operating officer and a director of fundraising to manage organizational operations and fundraising projects. Turnover is a problem as some employees leave to find higher-paying jobs.
Start of Udayan Care
Dr. Modi started Udayan Care after she lost her 21-year-old son Udayan, who was in his lifetime a supporter of poor children in Africa. She had always wanted to help children and youth. In her younger days as a student, she taught poor children at home. After the tragic death of her son, the reality of 31 million orphans in India motivated her to establish homes and foster care for orphaned and abandoned children. She decided to build Ghars, homes based in local communities, to provide care for the nearly 170 million abandoned or abused children throughout India (Udayan Care, 2016).
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Setting up the organization was a learning experience for Dr. Modi, and she observed other organizations like Child Rights and You (CRY) and the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) (Simhan, 2013). However, one of her major aims was to provide something fruitful in memory of her son, in addition to reducing the alarming statistic of 31 million orphans in India and the subpar housing programs provided by institutions, whether government-owned or private.
At first, she provided a trust in about three months but made it work out only after one and a half years. As a start-up, she oriented herself by visiting orphanages, where she learned about the lack of emotional bonds formed by children in these institutions. By understanding the realities of orphanages, she conceived of the idea of a “Ghar,” a home-based in the local community. One of the earliest key challenges was to find funding and hire the right people to run Udayan Care.
Udayan Shalini Fellowship Program (USF)
Under Udayan Care, the Udayan Shalini Fellowship program—already implemented in ten cities across India: Delhi, Kurukshetra, Aurangabad, Dehradun, Kolkata, Gurgaon, Hardwar, Phagwara, Jaipur, and Hyderabad—focuses on young, talented girls who graduated from tenth grade and could pursue higher education. Other emphases are placed on underserved youth and adults who want to improve their skills and vocational education in centers, known as Information Technology and Skill Development Centres, in major cities. Two other Udayan Care programs include volunteer and internship programs, which draw on help from civil society to provide one-on-one guidance to adolescents and adults pursuing the programs.
The name of the fellowship, Shalini, literally means in Sanskrit “a dignified and fulfilled woman.” Dr. Modi had dreamed of creating a “Sena,” something like an army of girls who are educated and socially and morally responsible for other girls and women still looking for a place to call home. To participate in the program, girls take a test known as Needs, Ambition, and Talent (NAT), and lucky girls are called Udayan Shalini Fellows (USF).
The Shalini Fellowship Program not only provides funds, but it brings along with it a pool of educational consultants, experts, and aspiring entrepreneurs who provide training and holistic counseling to young girls and adults to lead them to more fulfilling and successful lives. One group of USFs was supported by college-educated youths who had completed the program themselves; they were called “didi” (or sister). These mentors had lived through the same experiences that the young USFs were experiencing and were on their way to full recovery from their negative experiences; they were now motivating young USFs to also give back and inspire other USFs. USFs usually stay in the program for five or six years and participate in regular workshops, mandatory social work (for at least 50 hours), and a one-week leadership training program. Successful USFs help in the mentorship program and sponsor more candidates by shouldering the financial expenses for this program.
Udayan Care helps USFs even after they graduate from the program through job placement and access to an alumni network of senior USFs. A post-graduate course has also been given to qualified USFs. Recent graduates of the USF program have excelled in such disciplines as engineering, medicine, chartered accountancy, information technology (IT), and other fields. They have inspired and helped communities and recruits for the USF program.
Dr. Modi has indicated that USFs know how to give back to Udayan Care and the community, in terms of both financial assistance and time in teaching and counseling. Each USF already in college mentors a maximum of four to five girls. These girls are assured of holistic teaching as the graduating ones have had similar experiences as the new ones. Because mentors and volunteers come from within the Udayan Care organization, the program is not dependent on outside help.
An empirical study
A study conducted by Dyette (2016) and several researchers examined a sample of caretakers, mentor mothers, social workers, and children at Udayan Care. Voluntary participation was sought. Children from the age of 12 to 17 were informed of the research and were allowed to sign the standard child consent form. The orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) included in this sample were either voluntarily given up by their parents or were orphaned as a result of several possible circumstances, including but not limited to the death of both parents, being forced into labor due to family debt, or sexual or physical abuse by family members. The primary aim of the study by Dyette (2016) was to reveal, using empirical data, the differences that appear in the children at Udayan Care from the time they were taken into a time when the care had already been going on for some time.
The study was meant to establish a foundation for examining the characteristics of the orphan population at Udayan Care concerning what the literature indicates are critical factors in child development in general as well as the development of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) populations.
The children at Udayan Care showed a stronger attachment to peers. Based on the literature, a possible explanation for this pattern could be the importance of peers, who serve as enduring attachment figures in institutionalized settings. Another possible explanation is the fact that peer relationships are important for children when it comes to identity development, separation and individuation, and social connection (Segal, 1992).
An article by Ram, Strohschein, and Gaur (2014) highlighted the patterns of gender socialization in India via a representative survey conducted between 2006 and 2008. From the survey, the authors confirmed that privileges for females were lower than their male peers, that females had greater “barriers to independence,” that males tended to be favored over females, and that there were particular stressors associated with filling a scripted male role (Ram et al., 2014, p. 9). One unexpected finding was the general level of health measured by the child’s self-concept scores as well as the absence of any clinically significant post-traumatic stress shown by the children.
Key Decision Criteria
Compared to the rest of the world, there are relatively fewer orphanages in the United States; indeed, they are more common in “East Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia” (The St. Petersburg – USA Orphanage Research Team, 2008 as cited in Dyette, 2016). Given this fact and the similar conditions across orphanages concerning child well-being and caregiver availability, it is important to consider that this model is not likely to disappear any time soon.
Early risks (or challenges) for the management of Udayan Care involved finding donors who shared Udayan Care’s vision and mission and were willing to invest time and money. Donors, and other major stakeholders, have to be properly briefed as there are times that projects are delayed, leading to their frustration. If they are not adequately informed, such a situation could result in the withdrawal of funds by the donors. The need to search for funds, or a shortage of funds, could exacerbate problems. For example, some projects like building renovations need funds that might not be available right away. Renting a home is not within the normal standards of Udayan Care due to the high cost.
An important strategic choice for Udayan Care can be gleaned from the book by Thompson, Strickland, Gamble, and Jain (2015), as part of the alternative analysis for this essay. The authors suggest that “the heart and soul of any strategy are the actions and the moves in the market place that managers take to improve the company’s financial position” (Thompson et al., 2015, p. 11). Udayan Care’s strategy should combine both proactive initiatives and reactive adjustments.
Global policymakers have recommended that children be taken out of institutionalized settings and moved into residential family settings, reserving institutional care as a last recourse. This recommendation is what Udayan Care has implemented from the very beginning. Analyses were conducted to test the hypothesis that for children aged 6-12, institutional care is worse for health and well-being than residential care. This hypothesis was supported by the Dyette (2016) study: children should be raised in a home with the loving care of mentors and peers, especially for children who have been deprived of love early in life.
Since its founding, Udayan Care has been faithful to its mission and vision to uplift the lives of the abused, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged and to integrate them into mainstream society as fruitful and successful individuals. It has continued to provide a family environment for the unloved and the downtrodden, a model not usually found in Western models of institutionalized care, which do not positively result in free and motivated children or human beings who have forgotten the scars of abuse and violence. Udayan Care’s mission is to help abused children and adolescents start their new lives by giving them higher education, or vocational education for those who cannot intellectually tackle college education; empowering them as fruitful citizens of the community; and, above all, giving them the love that the Western model of institutionalized care cannot give.
Action and Implementation Plan
Udayan Care should build a creative strategy that differentiates it from other non-profit organizations. As per the current investigation, this is ongoing. However, strategies evolve as they are being used, and every non-profit organization should be willing and ready to change its strategy based on the existing environment, making the strategy a constant work in progress.
Udayan Ghars: Sunshine Homes
This program provides comprehensive shelter, access to education in a middle-class neighborhood, and opportunities for psychological development and growth for many children in India. Udayan Care utilizes the living in the family environment (LIFE) model, situating the children throughout 13 homes in the local community, rather than housing them in a traditional one-unit institutional care setting (Dyette, 2016). Each child at Udayan Care is assigned two caretakers (CT), at least one mentor mother (MM) or mentor father (MF) who are lifetime volunteers from the local community, and a social worker (SW).
Udayan Care aims to present Udayan Ghars as “group foster care” to the government. This model ensures that children are guided by volunteer mentor parents who do not just act as parents but fully commit to parenting the children. This concept has developed a network of mentor parents who have provided essential bonds for children who need the love and care of real parents.
Homes are strategically situated in busy, lower-middle-class families, allowing the children to be a part of mainstream society. Children who have displayed high academic aptitude are sent to the best educational institutions in the cities in which they are residing, while the other children are sent to vocational training. There are also programs for volunteer teachers who could provide support in teaching children in their homes.
Children come to Udayan Care from very poor families, and many have been abandoned and abused. Child abandonment is typically caused by economic problems within the immediate or adoptive family or some other domestic or marital problems. Most of the time, the child’s parents, posing as relatives, inform Udayan Care that their children are orphans. Modi et al. (n.d.) state that the children know and feel the extreme deprivation and that they do not dare return to their parents, even though some know their whereabouts and do not tell Udayan Care. However, many children do not know where their parents are and cannot locate their parents and immediate relatives. Most of these children have undergone experiences of physical abuse, rape, and other forms of violence by their family members before becoming street children (Modi et al., n.d.).
Because of their traumatic past experiences, children are provided with professional counseling from psychiatrists and consultants who give them and those involved in their mentoring and education the necessary professional help. Each child’s academic accomplishment and development, including values and psychological health, are recorded and followed-up regularly. Social workers also help in counseling efforts. For every two homes, there is one social worker hired by Udayan Care. The social worker provides an investigation report to the Child Welfare Committee, a government agency, which then assesses the report and provides a recommendation about whether the child should be brought back to his or her family or placed in an orphanage or foster care.
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