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FYI 7th July, 2020

The Role of Childline in Child Protection.

Childline 1098 is not merely a phone number, it’s a lifeline for millions of children across India. It is a 24×7 emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. Childline not only responds to the emergency needs of children but also connects them to relevant services for their long-term care and rehabilitation. Childline India Foundation (CIF) is the nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development acting as the parent organisation for setting up, managing and monitoring the Childline 1098 service all over the country. CIF is the sole agency responsible for establishing the Childline service across the country, monitoring of service delivery and finance, training, research and documentation, creating awareness, advocacy as well as resource generation for the service.

Two decades after it started out as a field project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai-based non-profit Childline India Foundation (CIF) now runs one of the world’s largest helpline services for children in distress.

By 31 March, the organization received 9 million calls from across the country. It currently operates in 571 cities and towns, works with over 1011 partner organizations, 128 Child Help Desks operating at railways stations covering 108,706kms of tracks and 6853 stations to help children in need of care and protection and victims of human trafficking’s and responds in over 25 languages. Since inception, it has serviced over 90 million calls and helped over 5 million children, according to data provided by the organization. 

How does Childline work? 

Childline, follow an action process which starts at the first call and continues till the child in need of care and protection is safely rehabilitated. To put it simply, the work includes several stages which are:

  1. Call 1098– Any child or a concerned adult can dial the Childline 1098 helpline, which operates night and day.
  2. Connect to the CHILDLINE Centre– The call is received by the Childline centre where details about the situation are taken from the caller and CHILDLINE units are mobilised if necessary.
  3. Rescue in 60 minutes– Once Childline has enough details about child or children in distress, the Childline team rushes to help children within 60 minutes to bring children out of an emergency situation.
  4. Intervention– Once Childline intervenes to help the child, it works with multiple stakeholders such as police authorities, child protection boards, social workers and counsellors. Children’s consent and participation is an important component of this process from response to intervention.
  5. Rehabilitation and Follow Up– After the interventions, to ensure the child’s continued safety, Childline proceeds to find long-term rehabilitation for the child. For this, the Childline team does constant follow ups with the child – meeting the family or visiting the shelter if a child has been assigned to stay in one.

One in 10 calls on abuse to helpline made by children  

Of every 10 calls made to emergency helpline 1098 to report abuse against children, one was from a survivor desperately seeking help, according to data compiled by the CIF. Last year, the helpline received a total of 62 lakh calls, which were converted into 3 lakh cases. The largest number of phone calls were made to seek intervention for abuse cases, which were at 53,696 or 17% of the total cases followed by child labour (13%), education (12%), runways (11%) and missing children (11%).   

From the total 53,696 calls made regarding abuse against children, 6,278 calls were made by survivors seeking urgent intervention. An analysis of the nature of abuse children suffered shows that 37% of the complaints were about child marriage, 27% about physical abuse and 13% regarding sexual abuse. The remaining 23% constitute emotional, corporal, domestic and cyber abuse.  

Childline has also collated data to examine the profile of abusers. The analysis shows that 35% of the total 8,000 cases of sexual abuse were committed by neighbours, 25% by strangers and 11% by family members and the remaining 29% of perpetrators were friends, relatives, teachers, institutional staff, police and step parents. 86% of survivors of sexual abuse were girls. Children who dialed the helpline also sought intervention for emotional and mental health, physical health, addiction, family related issues among others.   

Childline intervention protocols are evolving based on the nature of the cases reported.  Today, Childline have a lot of child sexual abuse cases and this is changing the intervention scenario and landscape radically. Street children are very much part of the landscape but calls from street children are dropping mainly because they have no access to a mobile phone and the number of public call booths are also dwindling. 

In order to address the issue of lack of mobile phones among street children, the Foundation is planning to roll out a pilot project where it would put up self-automated kiosks with touch screens in various railway stations, hospitals and other public places. Through these kiosks, a child can speak to a staff member without dialing any number. It would also capture biometric information, photos and video/voice chat facility.

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