This report, requested by the Ministry of Child Development and Women Empowerment and Save the Children in Sri Lanka, is largely based on a literature review and a two week visit to Sri Lanka. Its task is to suggest strategies in place of institutionalisation for children in need of care and protection and for child offenders, through alternative care and diversion. This report is not about coming up with innovatory solutions but rather looking at practical strategies to achieve the above ends that are acceptable, achievable and affordable without requiring any major legal reforms.
The deficiencies within the current system of child care and juvenile justice have been well documented and reforms of the current laws are underway. However, whether these take time or not, strategies are needed to put into practice both useful concepts that are in abeyance and new ones that have been proposed already by government. One key action that would assist the implementation of the proposed strategies is if the Department of Probation and Child Care (DPCC) drafted a child care policy and a juvenile justice policy, which sets down its overall goals and direction, which these strategies could be seen as contributing to.
Building on provisions in current laws, government circulars and a pilot scheme by the police, 5 strategies have been put forward which, if implemented successfully, should considerably reduce the numbers of children institutionalised for care and protection and for offending. In an ideal situation it would be best if there was one overall strategy which brought these five and other strategies together - eg on prevention, standards in Homes, co-ordination, care centres, reunification, reintegration, etc,. However, the situation concerning staffing strengths, infrastructure, the adoption of new laws, financial requirements and other factors are not sufficiently favourable to do this presently. The 5 strategies recommended for consideration by the DPCC and which have the general support of the national and provincial commissioners are:
Improving the Practice and Technical Capacity of Probation Officers and Child Rights Promoting Officers in Assessment and Case Management,
The Development of a Fit Person/Foster Carer (not a member of the family) Scheme,
The Establishment of an Admission Policy (‘Gate-Keeping’) for All Homes Voluntary & State,
The Speeding up of Domestic Adoption,
- The Diversion of Child Offenders from the Courts Using Police Discretion.
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