‘Drop in’ centres for street children

by Dilanthi Jayamanne

The National Child Protection Authority, has set up ‘Drop In’ centres for street children in order to provide them physical and mental development activities, NCPA Deputy Chairman Nanda Indrawanse said.

Parents who need help for their children could contact 1929 to get details about those centres.

These Centres have good library facilities and recreational areas, so that children could be involved in some form of physical and mental development rather than idling on the streets, Indrawanse said.

She said there were three types of street children - those who lived on the street with their families due to poverty, orphaned children and those who had homes and were well off, but preferred to idle on the streets. The last group were those who fall into trouble, she explained.

The Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs held a press conference to announce their programme for World Children’s Day. It was said that there were over twenty thousand street children in Sri Lanka some years ago.

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) urged mothers seeking foreign employment to provide information on the children they leave behind in the custody of others, to the NCPA. "If they take the precaution of informing the NCPA of their children’s details and the families to whom they have been handed over, we would be able to provide the children with protection by assessing the situation in the families they were living with, from time to time, through our district officers," she said.

She added that children of migrant mothers could also call the NCPA hot line 1929 at any time to lodge a complaint.

Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Colombo University and former Chairman, Jagath Wellawatta, said that these were social issues which needed to be looked at in a sympathetic manner. The first census on street children was carried out by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), he said. The Kandy Municipal Council followed suit. However, an official census has not been carried out on the numbers so far. The estimated number was twenty thousand. But that too was debatable, he said.

A majority of them were on the streets with their parents or relatives. And in most cases, these children attend school and come back to their parents who conduct their businesses on the streets or beg on the streets.

Addressing the issue of mothers with young children seeking employment abroad, Wellawatta said that former Minister of Child Development and Women’s affairs, submitted a Cabinet Paper to curb mothers with children below the age of five from seeking foreign employment. However, there was a general outcry that it was against the rights of the mother. He said he too had attempted to address the issue as NCPA Chairman, by bringing in a policy for mothers to get an order from the Supreme Court stating that their children would be in the care of the father or another relative. It almost reached a national policy level, but that too was not implemented, he said.

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