How Tech Innovation Is Decoding India’s Child Shelter Dilemma

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Pune, 14th November 2023: As India celebrates Children’s Day this 14th of November, we must remember an often overlooked pertinent issue: the numerous invisible children in child shelters waiting to reach permanent adoptive families. Addressing this issue, new technological solutions led by NGO Where Are India’s Children (WAIC) are showing promising results.

India’s shelters house lakhs of children, each with a unique background and story. Keeping track of every child’s journey, identifying children that can be made legally adoptable, and facilitating their eventual transition to stable homes is a mammoth task for shelters and government authorities alike. Technology is proving to be an invaluable ally in this effort, providing tools to streamline processes, monitor progress, and make timely interventions.

A.M. Raja Reddy, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee of the Medchal-Malkajgiri district in Telangana remarks about WAIC’s technology, “It has been very supportive to us in terms of data collection and in-depth analysis. It saves us a lot of time for our committee to make decisions in the best interest of the children.”

Challenges in the existing system
The fragmented and largely manual child protection system in India leaves many children at a disadvantage. The system grapples with challenges like lack of relevant digitised data, no automated triggers for identifying next steps for children, and a lack of real-time tracking of a child’s case through the child protection system. This highlights the urgent need for a holistic and automated solution, which can assist in the process of making children visible, ensuring that children are continuously evaluated and their cases are moved through the system.

Meera Marthi, Co-founder and CEO of WAIC, offers insights: “Technology should serve as an enabler, enhancing our efforts. While the human touch remains irreplaceable in child protection, to truly drive meaningful change, we must combine our compassionate on-the-ground actions with effective, tech-aided solutions to support us.”



Enter CLMS: A new dawn in child welfare

The Child Lifecycle Management Solution, CLMS, has been introduced by WAIC as a pivotal technological solution. Designed to oversee the child’s journey in child shelters, formally known as Child Care Institutions (CCIs), CLMS is changing the way child care is approached in India.

Meera Marthi adds, “CLMS addresses a pressing concern. We can meticulously log every relevant detail and every phase of a child’s journey since entering a shelter, ensuring no child goes unnoticed. For instance, based on a child’s guardian status alone, the system identifies children under 20 distinct categories. Such detailed categorization aids in timely adoption evaluations. Additionally, CLMS also tracks the child’s movement through the system once the pre-adoption process begins.”

The above CLMS screenshot shows the main categorization of children in shelters in a few representative districts. Many categories are further divided into subcategories, totalling to 20 distinct categories, which help case workers on the ground know which children’s cases to further pursue for potentially making the children legally adoptable.

CLMS also tracks visitation frequency of the child’s guardian, allowing its algorithm to flag children who haven’t been visited for an extended period of time, thus triggering an evaluation to check whether a child has been effectively abandoned and whether the child should be made legally adoptable.

Child visitation from family

The above CLMS screenshot shows how frequently the children in shelters are visited by their guardians in a few representative districts.

The above screenshot shows that not only are children identified for adoption evaluation, but their cases are tracked end-to-end. This  distinctive blend of data intelligence and an understanding of human complexities that CLMS offers is indeed groundbreaking.

children stay in shelter homes

Empowering social workers and field workers

On-ground child welfare social workers face numerous challenges daily, from managing countless documents to updating the status of each child. The enormity of the task is evident; WAIC has digitised over 11,000 cases so far using CLMS and have hardly broken the surface.

However, it is clear that technology is offering a lifeline. By transitioning to digital records and automating several processes, the potential for errors reduces drastically and prevents children from falling through the cracks. This not only simplifies tasks for shelter workers, government officials and WAIC’s on-ground team, but also plays a pivotal role in transforming children’s lives. With WAIC’s recent intervention in 25+ districts via its on-ground team and CLMS, more than 160 children have now become legally adoptable.

Highlighting technology’s impact, WAIC’s Senior Project Manager, Sanjay Shetty shared, “I work on and oversee several cases at a time, and CLMS helps me know exactly where a case is stuck, and what paperwork needs to be done or which stakeholder we need to work with to move the child’s case forward. CLMS  tracks the due diligence done for every child’s case and we have a record of all the children who have become legally adoptable through my and my team’s work. It’s a very proud moment for us when we work on a case and the child gets adopted.”

Towards a unified tech-driven approach

Though CLMS marks significant progress, the larger objective remains collaboration. With NGOs, government bodies, CCIs, and SAAs (specialised adoption agencies) working in harmony, technology can be the binding force.

Protima Sharma, WAIC Co-founder and Director, underscores, “We’re progressing, but all stakeholders utilising the technology platform is key. When technology complements human efforts, the transformations are profound.”

thousands of parents waiting to adopt

In India’s vast landscape, technology is ensuring that children in shelters aren’t forgotten. As NGOs like WAIC ride the digital tide, and as we celebrate adoptive families via November as Adoption Awareness Month, the aspiration of ensuring a #Family4EveryChild appears more achievable than ever.

This series is brought to you by WAIC and seeks to shed light on the challenges vulnerable children are facing in India.  In the upcoming months, we will discuss other approaches WAIC is taking to ensure that abandoned and orphaned children reach a permanent adoptive family.


How You Can Help

Your support can change the life trajectory of these children. Whether you’re close to child shelters, can help spread awareness, are considering adoption, or have influence in governmental policy, your involvement can be the beacon of hope for countless children.

To learn more and support WAIC’s mission, visit WAIC.