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Of the over 3.7 lakh children lodged in homes meant for care of children in vulnerable circumstances across India in 2016-17, over 1.2 lakh were the offspring of single parents. Their number is, in fact, more than double that of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children. 

The finding is part of an analysis done by a committee set up by the ministry of women and child development to study the data collected from 9,589 childcare institutions and homes between January 2016 and March 2017. 

"The data shows the number of children of single parents at 1.2 lakh is more than double that of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children," the report said. Of 3.7 lakh children in need of care and protection, 5,900 children in the age group of 0-6 years came in the category of orphans, abandoned and surrendered. There were 50,267 orphan, abandoned and surrendered children between 7-18 years. 

States with the highest number of children with single parents living in homes are Tamil Nadu (31,098), Maharashtra (21,260), Andhra Pradesh (10,113), Karnataka (10,080) and Kerala (10,782). 

There are 65,962 boys and 54,096 girls in this category.
There were 60 children in the transgender category. While Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had the highest number of girls, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra had the highest number of boys in this category staying in homes. 

The study busts the notion that children's homes run by the government and NGOs are spaces for those normally referred to as runaway, missing, abandoned, trafficked and orphaned. Explaining the presence of children of single parents in such large numbers, the report said such parents often send their kids to care homes to ensure safety and well-being of the child. In such cases, the child remains in touch with the parent and is eventually reunited based on an assessment of the situation by the child welfare committee authorised for the purpose under the Juvenile Justice Act. 

"It is seen that more often than not, a non-conducive social environment or the inability to provide for basic needs forces parents to take this decision. Children of single parents category come under Section 2(14) of the JJ Act and qualify to be children in need of care and protection," the report said.

Former chairperson of a child welfare committee (CWC) in Delhi and honorary secretary of NGO Shakti Shalini Dr Bharti Sharma said many of these single parents who come to the CWCs lack social support systems. It could be a woman caught in commercial sexual exploitation in a red light area seeking support for her child. The single parent could be a father who has migrated to the city to work as a labourer and does not have the support system to take care of his children at that moment.

Sharma recounted the case of a mother of two girls aged 7 and 4. The woman worked as a domestic help and had nowhere to leave her children while at work and lacked the means to take care of their needs. She saw her abusive and alcoholic husband as the biggest threat to her daughters. She approached Sharma's team to help her place her children in a home meant for kids in need of care and protection.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said, "Many of these children would not need to go to an institutional set-up if there were alternatives available in society. We are studying ways to execute foster care and sponsorship programmes so that more people come forward to support children who have a parent but need support." 

Source: Times of India