Connecting, Coping and Caring is a training programme on caregiving for children and adolescents who live in institutions: shelter homes, orphanages, night shelters or day care centres, and hostels. The training is meant for caregivers who work with children in institutions including residential staff – cooks, home mothers and shelter managers or superintendents, security personal, cleaners as well as non-residential staff – which include social workers or case workers, teachers and counselors. The programme also trains management of such shelters (directors and managers). The objective of the programme is to build capacities of shelter homes and institutions to ensure quality care to children and adolescents.
Although there are no officially published cumulative figures, child rights activists estimate that there are more than 5,000 shelter homes/ residential homes in India alone, run by the State and NGOs with an estimated 100,000 to 500,00 children staying in such institutions, with at least 40% of them run by the government and the rest by NGOs. Bangladesh and Nepal also have another 200 to 300 of shelters for children – orphans, children of sex workers, street children and children who are victims of trafficking, mostly run by NGOs.
Lack of professional training and skills in caregivers result in negative forms of disciplining – use of physical and psychological punishment to control children and consequent disempowerment in children. Contrary to what the intent and objective of such institutional care may be, children grow up with low self esteem, low levels of life skills (lack of communication skills or ability to manage oneself, form positive relationships or manage stress or problems) and deinstitutionalization or rehabilitation becomes difficult.
Caregiving or quality of care is a soft skills programme and difficult to monitor unless organisations have mental health friendly policies and ways of working. Directors and management of such institutions are usually never trained in monitoring or assessing caregiving standards in shelter homes they manage.
The training programme is conducted in 3 phases over 12 months, and is conducted by mental health practitioners, all with extensive experience in training and with exposure to child protection issues and conditions in which caregivers work.
The Caregivers’ Empowerment Core Modules are held in three phases of seven days training each. The trainings aim to build empathy in caregivers towards children, in building their understanding of their roles and the limits thereof, in building their skills in communication (with children, their peers and with authorities) and stress management, handling children individually and in groups and in creating enabling environments for children and themselves to work with each other. By helping caregivers connect with their own issues, as in their childhood and adolescence, and by helping them empathise with themselves, the programme helps them become more empathetic to others, and especially children. The programme pays particular attention on skills building in caregivers to deal with issues on stressors of puberty and adolescent sexuality and positive disciplining techniques.
The programme also offers trainings to management and directors of such shelters and organisations that run shelters on psychological issues of adolescents, their emotional and behavioural manifestations and trains them to monitor caregiving standards and supervise their staff to ensure quality of care to children.
The training is designed to be relevant to management and practitioners working in institutions for children :