Last Wednesday, when 41-year-old Raman Jeet Singh received a phone call informing him about the need to temporarily house a 10-year-old boy whose parents were hospitalised for Covid-19 treatment, Singh himself was positive for the viral infection and undergoing home treatment. His wife, Sandeep Kaur, readily volunteered to bring the boy home.
Singh, a techie and activist associated with NGO Feed The Needy, which offers free last ride services to Covid victims, said the child had been left unattended at the reception of a private hospital. “I have a 10-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. The child could have been my daughter or son,” said Singh, adding his family had no apprehensions bringing the child home.
Seven days later, on May 5, the Cyberabad police took lead and joined hands with its community outreach arm Society for Cyberabad Security Council (SCSC), and volunteers and launched three care centres for children who are left on their own as their parents are in hospitals. A few days ago, the same team had launched a dedicated portal for all verified services on Covid-19.
Launching the initiative, Police Commissioner V C Sajjanar said, “At short notice, we could mobilise the resources and get few facilities operationalised. There is a dedicated helpline (080-45811215, available between 9 am and 6 pm). Once details are taken, our SHE teams — a division of Telangana police for safety of women — will do a background check and safely reach the child/children of Covid affected children to this facility. As we see many people using or in need this service, we will scale up the facilities and provide assistance.”
Recalling the day the 10-year-old was brought home, Singh’s wife Sandeep Kaur said the child was traumatised and unable to eat, talk or sleep. “He was in the ambulance while his mother was being shifted to the hospital and was waiting alone at the reception. They were critically ill at the time,” said Kaur. The boy had not eaten anything the whole day. “He was traumatised. Since we have two kids, it was easy to treat him like our own. I made him talk to his relatives in Kolkata the next day. With my children around, he soon became comfortable. The parents have recovered now but are in home isolation. They are in touch with him,” she added.
The pandemic has brought to the fore newer challenges, said Sai Teja, one of Singh’s partners in the NGO. “With both parents testing positive for Covi, and if they have no relatives around, who is going to take care of the child? We have managed a couple of such situations recently with the involvement of our own families, but there was a need for an institutionalised solution,” he added.
Krishna Yedula, the SCSC’s Secretary-General, said there was an immediate need to address the issue. “We have prepared a standard procedure to secure the child after receiving a call on our helpline. This is open for all as long as parents’ consent is involved. At present, we can house 10 to 15 children at a time and if need be, we can always scale up,” he said.
— Cyberabad Police (@cyberabadpolice) May 5, 2021
As a call is received on the helpline, the volunteer takes down the details for initial screening after which personnel from SHE teams seek consent from the parents or secure an email confirmation, and transport the child to the care centre. The police also get acknowledgment from the centre manager on the admission of the child.
Pratyusha Sharma, joint secretary of the SCSC, said the three centres are fully equipped to ensure a secure environment for children in the age group of 7 to 14 till their parents recover. The centres are located in Madhuranagar, Nallagandla, and Hafeezpet. “For younger children, we will guide them to the right places or accommodate them accordingly if we are confident about the facility,” she said.
“These children need personalised care. So, we have arranged for full-time volunteers apart from teachers and psychological counselors. We have signed up local pediatricians as well,” she added.
Apart from full-time care centres, a few individual home caregivers have also registered themselves with SCSC offering to provide a safe environment for children whose parents are under treatment for Covid or in home isolation.