A few days ago, the mother of two children, aged 10 and 11, from Tiruvannamalai was in a fix after she tested COVID-19 positive and was admitted to hospital. Being a single mother, she was clueless about where to send her children. Luckily, a government official sent them to the Children Shelter Home for COVID-19 emergency in the district.
To help provide a permanent home for children who have either become orphaned due to COVID-19 or to provide temporary shelter for those whose parents have been admitted in hospitals after testing positive, the District Child Protection Unit, along with ChildLine, has started two homes in buildings run by Terre Des Homme CORE, an NGO. While the one for girls is at Perumpakkam Road in Tiruvannamalai, the one for boys is located at Thandrampet in the district.
The children are first produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and then taken to the homes. “The two kids were shocked when they came in. However, we made them speak to their mother and she convinced them it was safe. We have psychologists and counsellors who speak to the children and make them feel at home. We have facilities to house them in a separate room till the RT-PCR test is taken and till the results come. Once they test negative, they will mingle with the other kids,” said A.B. Sharmila, joint director of the NGO.
She said there was an indoor and outdoor play area for the children. “If the children do not have smartphones, we make them interact with their parents through video call. If some relatives approach us to take them home, after appealing to the CWC, we verify their credentials and send them along,” said Chezhian Ramu, director of the NGO.
As of now, only the two brothers were brought to the shelter and they went back after their mother was discharged from the hospital. “Apart from this, children who have been orphaned due to COVID-19 can also be provided permanent shelter here,” he said.
The District Child Protection Unit, Tiruvannamalai, has created awareness in villages of the homes. “We have already placed banners in hospitals and PHCs. We have gathered details about COVID-19 deaths in the district and our staff are checking if any child has been orphaned,” said S. Selvi, DCPO, Tiruvannamalai.
Ms. Sharmila said similar homes had been opened in Vellore district by them.
(Childline operates a toll free helpline - 1098 - for children in distress across the country.)