This article is written by Abhay, a student from Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS. This is an exhaustive article which deals with various aspects associated with rehabilitation and social reintegration of children under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
Table of Contents
The core principle of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is change and recovery and not punishment. The Act stipulates that children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and security should be catered for their essential needs by adequate care, safety, growth, treatment, social reintegration, and child-friendly adoption.
Each child who comes into contact with the criminal justice system is a child in challenging situations that have at some stage dropped out of the safety net and has been deprived of a chance to have a safe and stable childhood. In challenging situations, children in conflict with the law should be viewed as children and the intervention of the criminal justice system should aim at resolving the situation.
The premise behind redemption is that people are not born criminals and an opportunity to be welcomed back to society should always be offered. It also stops them from transforming into violent offenders. Instead of prosecuting them as an offender, rehabilitation aims to bring the change in juveniles who are in conflict with the law through schooling or therapy. The law also makes sure that any child leaving a child care institution at the age of eighteen is provided with financial assistance to promote the reintegration of the child into mainstream society.
Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration
The recovery and social inclusion of children under the Act is performed on the basis of the child’s individual care plan. It is done ideally by family-based treatment such as return to the family or guardian with or without guidance or support, or adoption or foster care. Provided that every attempt is made to retain the siblings placed together in institutional or non-institutional care. Only if not being left together is in their best interests.
The method of rehabilitation and social integration is followed in observation homes for children, contrary to the law. It happens usually when the child is not released on bail and held there by the Board’s order in special homes or in a place of protection or with a suitable individual. Section 39 specifies that children who need treatment and security who are not kept in families for any reason as such, on a temporary or long-term basis, can be placed in an institution licensed for such children or with a suitable individual or facility.
The rehabilitation and social integration process shall be followed wherever the child is placed. Those in need of care and support and live in institutional care or in special homes or places of security may receive financial assistance when they reach the age of eighteen as stated in Section 46. This is to help them reintegrate into the mainstream.
Restoration of a child in need of care and protection
The primary goal of any Children’s Home, Specialized Adoption Agency, or open shelters is the rehabilitation and protection of a child. The Children’s Home, Specialized Adoption Agency, or an open shelter has to take all such measures that are deemed appropriate for the recovery and security of a child who is temporarily or permanently removed from his or her family environment and is kept under their care and protection.
Section 40 specifies that the Competent Authority under its discretion can return any child in need of care and security to his or her parents, guardian, or fit person after assessing their worthiness to take care of the child. The committee can also provide them with the correct directions regarding anything related to the child. “Restoration and security of a child” means, restoration to parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, guardian, or fit person.
Registration of childcare institutions
Without considering anything found in any other laws for the time being in effect, all organizations, whether operated by a State Government or voluntary or non-governmental organizations have to accommodate children in need of care and security. These organizations have to be registered in compliance with the act, within a period of six months from the date of commencement of the same Act, regardless of whether or not it receives grants from the Central or State Government.
These institutions should have valid registration under the Juvenile Justice Act. The State Government has to assess and record the institution’s ability and function at the time of registration and register the institution as a Children’s Home, Open Shelter, Specialized Adoption Agency, observation home, special home, or as a place of protection.
Upon receiving a request for registration of an established or new institution housing children in need of care and security, the State Government may grant provisional registration for a maximum duration of six months. The government has to grant this within one month from the date of acceptance of the request, to bring such an institution under the purview of this Act.
The provisional registration shall stand cancelled if the said institution does not fulfil the prescribed criteria for registration. In a situation, when the State Government does not issue a tentative certificate of registration within one month from the date of application, the proof of receipt of the application for registration can be treated as an interim registration for the purpose of running an institution which may extend up to a period of six months. If the officers of the State Government do not dispose of the application for registration within six months, necessary departmental proceedings are instituted about the same. Section 41 specifies that the registration period of an institution is till five years, and gets renewed after every five years. The State Government may cancel or withhold the registration of institutions that do not provide rehabilitation and reintegration services as stated in Section 53 and the State Government shall manage the institution until it is renewed or granted registration again.
The licensed child care institutions have the duty to accept children, subject to the institution’s ability as directed by the Committee, whether or not they obtain grants from the Central Government or the State Government. Inspection committee appointed pursuant to Section 54 shall have the power to inspect any institution that houses children, even if not registered for the purpose of deciding whether such institution houses children in need of care and security or not.
Penalty for non-registration
Section 42 provides that any individual or persons in control of an institution that houses children in need of care and in conflict with the law if they do not adhere the provisions of subparagraph (1) of Section 41, they shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of one year or a fine of not less than one lakh rupee or both. Given that every 30 days delay in registering is deemed as a separate offence.
The State Government may create and maintain as many open shelters as may be necessary as mentioned in Section 43, by itself or by voluntary or non-governmental organizations, and such open shelters have to be registered as such in the manner specified. The open shelters operate on a short-term basis as a community-based facility for children in need of residential assistance with the goal of shielding them from violence or holding them away from life on the streets. The open shelters have to submit reports to the District Child Protection Unit and the Committee every month, in the manner specified, concerning children who have benefited from the shelter services.
Children in need of support and security may be taken into foster care, including community care by order of the Committee, after following the protocol as may be recommended in this regard, especially in a family which does not include the biological or adoptive parents of the child or in an unrelated family recognized by the State Government as appropriate for this purpose.
This can be for the short term or can be extended further by the concerned authorities as prescribed by Section 44. The allocation of the foster family is centred on the capacity, purpose, skill, and previous experience of taking care of the children. All efforts shall be made to hold siblings in foster care together unless it is best for them not to be together.
The State Government also provides monthly financial support for such foster care through the District Child Protection Unit and also inspects to ascertain the well-being of the children. If the children were placed in foster care because their parents were found to be incompetent or unfit by the Committee, the parents of the child may visit the child in the foster home at frequent intervals, unless the committee feels that such interactions aren’t in the child’s best interest.
The foster parents are responsible for supplying the child with schooling, safety, and nutrition, and are responsible for maintaining the child’s general well-being in the manner prescribed. In order to determine the process, conditions, and manner in which foster care services have to be given for children, the State Government can make rules regarding the same.
The Committee will perform the inspection of foster families each month to ensure the child’s well-being, and if a foster family is found to be failing in child care, the child shall be removed from that foster family and transferred to another. Although, a child cannot be given for long-term foster care.
In order to implement various initiatives for the sponsorship of children, such as individual, group, or community sponsorship, the State Government can make rules to facilitate them as mentioned in Section 45. The sponsorship will provide financial resources for families, children’s homes, and special homes in order to meet the children’s medical, nutritional, educational, and other needs in order to enhance their well-being.
The sponsorship conditions include:
- where the mother is a widow, divorced or deserted by the family;
- where the children are orphaned and stay with the extended family;
- where the parents are victims of life-threatening illness;
- where the parents are injured as a result of an accident and are unable to take care of the children physically and financially.
The State Government may create and maintain observation homes as prescribed by Section 47, for the temporary admission, treatment, and rehabilitation of any child alleged to be in conflict with the law in each district or group of districts, either by itself or by voluntary or non-governmental organizations, during the time period in which inquiry is pending.
If the State Government considers that any designated institution other than a home founded or maintained is suitable for the temporary reception of a child that institution may be registered as an observation home. Through rules laid down in this Act, the State Government must provide for the management and monitoring of observation homes, including the requirements and different types of services to be given through them for the rehabilitation and social integration of a child. A child who is not put under parental or guardian’s care and sent to an observation home shall be separated as per their gender and age, after giving due consideration to the physical and mental health of the child and also to the degree of the offence committed.
Section 48 specifies that the State Government must create and maintain, either on its own or through voluntary or non-governmental organizations, special homes registered in any district or group of districts as these may be necessary for the rehabilitation of those who are found to have committed an offence and who is held there by the order from the Juvenile Justice Board (Section 18).
Through the law, the State Government will have to provide for the administration and supervision of special homes, including the requirements and different kinds of services that are required for a child’s social reintegration, and the conditions and the manner in which, the registration of a special home may be authorized or revoked. The State Government can also provide for the classification and differentiation of children on the grounds of their age, gender, the severity of the offence they had committed, and the mental and physical health of the child.
Place of safety
According to Section 49, the State Government shall create at least one place of protection in a State registered under section 41 to locate an individual over the age of 18 years or a child who is between 17 and 18 years of age and is suspected or guilty of having committed a heinous crime. Every place of safety must provide various arrangements and amenities for these children or individuals to reside throughout the investigation process, and also for those who are convicted of committing an offence. State government may specify the kinds of places that may be approved as a place of protection and the facilities and services which may be given therein.
A facility operated by a public agency or a charitable or non-profit entity licensed under any statute shall be accepted by the Board or the Committee as being capable of temporarily assuming the responsibility of a child for the particular reason after a careful inquiry into the suitability of the facility and the child care agency as mentioned in Section 51.
Every institution shall have a management committee to be set up in the manner specified in Section 53, to administer the institution and track the progress of each child. The officer in charge of each institution, housing children over the age of six, shall encourage the establishment of children’s committees to engage in such activities as may be specified, for the health and well-being of children in the institution.
Inspection of registered institutions
The State Government shall appoint inspection committees for the State and districts as prescribed by Section 54, for those institutions registered or recognized to be fit under this Act. Such inspection committees shall undertake compulsory visits to all facilities housing children in the area designated, at least once in every three months, in a group that at least consists of three members, including one who shall be a woman and one of them shall be a medical officer.
The committee shall send reports of such visits to the District Child Protection Units or the State Governor within one week of their visit. After the inspection committee submits the report, the District Child Protection Unit has to take appropriate measures within one month, and a compliance report has to be submitted to the State Government.
There is also a necessity for control processes in instances of adoption and foster–care. With the co-operation and sensitization of the officials involved, a shift can be brought in the entire infrastructure. To be effective in recovery and to maintain the children’s well-being, daily follow-up is important. The task of social workers is all the more important because children need continuous assistance even after the recovery. The main objective should be to find a loving and caring family for each adoptable child and to ensure that the child’s ‘best interests’ are always borne in mind. The earlier a child is adopted by alternate families, the better it is for the child’s overall growth and progress.
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