INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CHILD WELFARE BY M R S . LILA ALVARES. ...
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CHILD WELFARE
BY M R S . LILA ALVARES.
" T h e problem of children in most Asian and other underdeveloped countries is mainly
one of rescue from the circumstances of poverty and malnutrition, of low standard of living,
of overcrowding and illiteracy, of endemic disease and attendant social and psychological
handicaps." says Mrs. Alvares and reviews, against this background, the International Conference
on Child Welfare, held in Bombay in December last. In the following article, she points out
that the western clinical approach to child welfare will not suit India and makes a plea for
broad nation-wide welfare programmes for children in India.
Mrs. Alvares is an alumnus (1942-'44) of the T a t a Institute of Social Sciences.
That 'mankind owes to the child the best for Child Welfare, in co-operation with the
that it has to give' is a concept of responsibility Indian Council for Child Welfare, and was
that most governments have accepted, and in attended by delegates from over 48 countries,
the scheme of social services the section on the U.N. and specialised Organisations, and
Child Welfare is given increasing emphasis. by a large number of observers.
In most countries, larger and larger budgetary
The Conference itself lasted for seven
provisions are being made for child welfare, days; and to facilitate deliberations on the
and voluntary agencies are encouraged to various aspects of Child Welfare, it divided
interest themselves in this humanitarian task. itself into discussion groups, the delegates and
The place of the Child in society has observers attaching themselves to the group
unfortunately taken on two different aspects in which they had specialised or were
in different countries. While in some the interested.
question is approached from the humanitarian
There were 9 groups in all, each one con-
point of view, and care and development of centrating upon a particular issue.
the child is just an expression of the larger
Group 1: The physical care of the Child
responsibilities towards the human race with
in the family.
full freedom to develop, in other countries
„ 2: Child development and the basic
the question of child welfare is distorted and
principles of education in the
finds expression in attempts to mould the
home.
whole mental outlook of the child in the
„ 3: The role of health workers and
philosophy of the State. Whereas the attempt
health services in relation to the
in one set of countries is to afford the child
education of parents.
the care and protection it lacks and to train
„ 4: The contribution of educational
it for free citizenship, in the other set, while
services and organisations tow-
care and protection are undoubtedly there,
ards the education of parents
the perspective of development in the ideas
and the improvement of child
of freedom and citizenship is absent. A change
welfare.
in perspective can destroy all conceptions of
„ 5: The importance of the preven-
child welfare.
tion and the early detection
The International Conference Session.—It
and treatment of handicapped
is in this context that the first International
children.
Conference on Child Welfare met in Bombay
„ 6: The main problems of the care
from 5th to the 12th December, 1952, under
and education of orthopedically
the patronage of the Government of India.
handicapped children in Asian
It was convened by the International Union
Countries.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CHILD WELFARE
1 9 3
„ 7: The main problems of the care
the socially or physically handi-
and education of blind children
capped.
in Asian Countries.
(d) Free elementary education be
„ 8: The main problems of the care
provided for all children and
and education of deaf children
made compulsory as soon as
in Asian Countries.
possible. The Conference recog-
„ 9: The main problems of the care
nised that voluntary agencies
and education of the mentally
might have to supplement govern-
handicapped children.
mental effort in this regard until
Papers were read on many of the above
such time as Governments could
subjects as well as on general problems of
take over the complete responsi-
child welfare and on the efforts being made
bility of financing free education
in the direction of their solution in many
for all children. The Conference,
countries. On the basis of these group dis-
however, felt that it was the
cussions the Conference:
responsibility, ultimately, of Gov-
ernments to provide education
I. Reaffirmed its belief in the Declara-
for the children of their countries.
tion of the Rights of the Child,
commonly known as the Declaration
III. The Conference emphasised the neces-
of Geneva, and called upon all
sity of voluntary effort in furnishing
Governments to enact appropriate
the necessary services for the children
legislation to protect and guarantee
of each country. In many countries,
such rights.
certain services, which will ultimately
II. Urged that, in order to implement the
be the responsibility of Governments,
principles outlined in this Declara-
must in the interim period be initiated
tion:—
and carried on by voluntary groups.
(a) All countries concerned should
IV. Even in countries, where Governments
do everything they could to
have been able to take an increasing
preserve and strengthen family
responsibility for some of the funda-
life, since a happy home is essen-
mental services for children, the
tial to the greatest growth and
Conference maintained that voluntary
development of every child.
agencies would always be essential.
(b) Each individual child be given
Individual citizens find their social
the opportunity to become self-
expression for service through these
reliant and learn the principles
voluntary organisations and can thus
of co-operation, so that, in due
constantly pioneer to meet new needs
course, he would recognise and
and develop new methods of meeting
assume his responsibility as an
such needs.
adult and play his part in the
V. The Conference recognised the value
community.
of establishing centres of specialised
(c) Social agencies and programmes,
training for individuals dealing with
voluntary and governmental, be
children. In addition to increasing
increasingly planned, not only to
the number of professional full-time
fully develop the normal child,
workers, the Conference stressed the
but also to rebuild and rehabilitate
importance of further training facili-

1 9 4
M R S . LILA ALVARES
ties for the semi-trained, the part-time
for Child Welfare and represen-
and the voluntary workers.
tatives of other national Organisa-
tions be formed into a Continua-
VI. The Conference, realising the need
tion Committee, the role of which
for co-ordination and co-operation
shall be;
between the many voluntary agencies
on the one hand, and between govern-
(i) to maintain and develop the
ment effort and voluntary effort on
contacts already established;
the other hand, recommended that
(ii) to keep a watching brief
methods for attaining these objectives
over the implementation of
should receive careful study in each
the findings;
country. It further urged the setting
(iii) to consider how countries
up of suitable machinery, where
can be of assistance to each
necessary, at national, state and local
other through the loan of
levels, to achieve these ends.
single workers or teams, or
The Conference also adopted the
other means;
following resolutions:
(iv) to convene from time to
"The International Study Conference
time regional study con-
on Child Welfare, grateful for the
ferences; and
opportunities to get better informed
(v) to convene in due course a
and to make these new contacts which
second international study
were offered by the International
conference in another Asian
Union for Child Welfare and the
country.
Indian Council for Child Welfare in
As an introduction to the findings concern-
convening this meeting
ing handicapped children, it adopted the
Convinced that such meetings, on following statement:
the one hand, act as a valuable and
"Recognising that children are the greatest
effective stimulant both for individuals
of the world's resources;
and for institutions actively interested
That many of the world's children,
in Child Welfare and, on the other
although physically handicapped, have
hand, promote the development of
far more ability than disability;
true international co-operation,
That these children with integrated
Expresses the wish
medical, educational and other services,
(a) that the International Union and
can develop those abilities and become
the Indian Council for Child
more adequate citizens not only in their
Welfare, as conveners of the
communities and nations, but of the
present Conference and in co-
world;
operation with delegates present,
That as their total needs require a team-
ensure that the work of this
work concept and the complete utilisation
Conference and specially its
and integration of many disciplines, arts
findings, be brought to the atten-
and skills,
tion of all those who are in a
The same team-work concept of
position to implement them;
total planning through the complete
(b) that the International Union for
utilisation and integration of the re-
Child Welfare, the Indian Council
sources of all agencies, both public and

INTERNATIONAL C O N F E R E N C E O N C H I L D W E L F A R E
1 9 5
voluntary, is essential at the community, adequate provisions for basic h u m a n needs.
national and international levels."
They do not suffer as m u c h from the effects
Conference's Success.—The success of the of poverty and mal-nutrition, overcrowding
Conference lay in its efforts to focus world or lack of education, as do the children of
and national attention on the various aspects most Asiatic countries. T h e i r problems are
of the problems of children and to systematise not so m u c h the problems of prevention as
the various recommendations in respect of the of cure. T h e proportion of physically handi-
different sections of Child Welfare. It was capped children is greater there than that of
helped in this great task by co-ordination of those handicapped by unfavourable environ-
the efforts of experts and social workers.
ment. Since society is so well advanced
generally, their problems can find easy
It suffered in its resources from a lack of solution in clinics and curative treatment.
data to enable it to assess the magnitude of
Children in Asian Countries.—But the
the problems before it. Not many Governments
problem of children in most Asian and other
helped the Conference by submitting reports under-developed countries is mainly one of
of the work done in their States, while in rescue from the circumstances of poverty and
respect of others only a sectional survey of mal-nutrition, of low standard of living, of
efforts undertaken was made available to the overcrowding and illiteracy, of endemic
Conference. Better planning and fuller co-
disease and attendant social and psychological
operation from the Governments will, in handicaps. In Asian countries, there are far
future, help subsequent Conferences to more problem children that need care as a
analyse the problems more fully and to plan result of living and growing under these
more completely and coordinate the various circumstances than those suffering from other
preventive and curative methods evolved causes. While even in Asian countries those
everywhere.
children t h a t require the care and treatment
An important observation, and one that of clinical methods can be taken care of to
was made by competent Asian delegates, was a large extent by Government and allied
that the Conference lacked planning in a agencies, those vast millions who are the
perspective. Like most Conferences that have victims of poverty and overbearing social
their inspiration in Europe, this Conference conditions do not receive adequate or even
suffered from the difference in approach cursory attention. Such children develop into
between the Western and Asiatic concept of vast problem complexes and social outcasts
the problems of Child Welfare. T h o u g h this whose life is condemned to rotate within a
handicap was later m a d e up by some Indian vicious circle, perpetuating their own con-
and other Asiatic delegates, and a corrective ditions and dragging down the whole social
in emphasis brought to bear upon t h e fabric to the level of their own miserable
deliberations, the proportion of concentration standards. No clinical approach to their
upon the specific problems of Child Welfare problems is possible. Their case has to be
in Asian Countries was found to be handled on the community level and on the
inadequate.
front of raising their standard of living. T h e
For, comparatively the Western approach Conference failed to recognise their case
is mainly one of a clinical nature. Most adequately and to emphasise its concern for
Western Countries having achieved a rela-
them. For an assessment of such problems,
tively high standard of living and of social the case of children in I n d i a will be a fair
security, the children of those countries have average.

1 9 6
M R S . LILA ALVARES
The Five Year Plan.-—The approach to
6. Organisation of children centres, each
child welfare on the plane of a higher
with a well equipped playground,
standard of living is an approach that is
library of juvenile literature, a stage
fundamental and yet limited in scope as far
and facilities for developing child art
as the time factor is concerned. A higher
and crafts.
standard of living involves governmental
7. Organisation of institutions for the
policies in respect of economic planning,
welfare of orphaned, deserted and
distribution of wealth between various sections
destitute children. It is suggested that
of society and special provisions for child
the orphanages and other similar
welfare. In India, the Five Year Plan has
institutions should be registered and
fortunately recognised the importance of the
supervised.
following aspects of Child Welfare which
In addition, to deal with the problem of
need special attention:
juvenile delinquency, the Ministry of Educa-
1. The need to supplement the diet of tion has drafted a Model Act.
children, especially in the case of
While the Plan can only indicate the nature
under-nourished children, in schools of the problems to be tackled and besides,
and other institutions;
also make certain financial provisions, its
efforts are limited by the availability of
2. Pilot projects for dealing with the resources and by its order of priorities.
problem of feeble-minded children;
Infant Mortality.—The problems of infant
3. Child guidance clinics;
mortality are the first that have to be dealt
with. Out of a total population of about 360
4. Organisation of creches to look after millions, there are 155 millions below the age
the children of working mothers;
of 17 years. Of these 3,177,628 children die
5. Maintenance and management of play every year. The age groups that are affected
grounds.
are as under:—
Year
Under 1 year
1 — 4 years
5 — 6 years
1 0 — 1 4 years
1936
1,539,749
1,113,816
332,286
184,340
1937
1,518,569
1,138,221
327,031
182,231
1938
1,570,169
1,301,531
372,020
200,398
1939
1,454,678
1,111,314
183,308
199,379
1940
1,483,338
1,144,628
188,353
199,153
1941
1,489,283
1,215,761
109,762
223,085
1942
1,416,640
1,141,093
221,808
224,319
1943
1,280,094
1,184,841
286,042
273,445
1944
1,305,333
1,334,569
202,831
274,895
Even though infant mortality rate which and social conditions is on the increase in the
was 168.1 per thousand in 1932 has fallen to country. Only such cases can be brought
132.8 in 1949, there is still much to be done. to the notice of public workers and govern-
If social services, both governmental and ment as occur in cities, but the vast majority
others, can reach the villages, then the death of those in the villages of India remain
rate can be kept down to a minimum.
unnoticed and uncared for. Children's acts
Poverty and Delinquency.—Juvenile delin-
are now in force in all the major States of
quency which is primarily a result of poverty the country, and in 1949, 25,163 boys and

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CHILD WELFARE
1 9 7
2,249 girls were put up before the Court for quency and not of its magnitude. The
the following reasons: —
problems are much vaster.
(1) Offences against property . . 7,793 Comparative statistics in the field of
(2) Charged under the Railway
education also are educative. The total
Act.
1,315
number of children between 6 and 11 years
(3) Children in moral danger . .
449 attending primary schools was 17,654,600 in
(4) Rape
93
1949-50, whilst the number of boys and girls
(5) Miscellaneous
11,393 attending school between 11 and 17 years
(6) No guardians
2,404 was 4.793,500. Relative figures including
These figures speak of the inadequacy of those of expenditure in various countries in-
the machinery for detecting cases of delin-
cluding India are as follows: —
In the United Kingdom, the per capita
No statistics are available in the other
expenditure is Rs. 74.5; in India, it is Rs. 2.3. spheres of child welfare activity to prove the
While in Bombay State it is Rs. 28.4, in gravity of the situation as it exists to-day. But
Bombay City it is Rs. 72.5. The great leeway the problems of mal-nutrition, children's
that we have to make up in the field of diseases, destitute and orphaned, handicapped
education is evident from the above table, as and maladjusted children, bad housing, sani-
also the unequal development among the tation and cleanliness or recreation and
different States in the country. If in this protection are present in such large numbers
field of Child Welfare, we have to plan for all over the country that nothing short of a
equal development all over the country, then total effort can even approach anywhere near
such planning cannot be left entirely to the a solution. The first task, naturally, must be
capacity of each State to bear the burden. a broad survey undertaken to assess their
The Central Government must step in both immensity. No voluntary agency can, by itself
as regard finance and programme.
undertake this responsibility. This must be the
Future Scope of Work.—Having surveyed task of the Government, of course, aided by
the context in which the Conference was such agencies. Once the problems are sur-
held and the work of the Conference itself, veyed, then a comprehensive plan of action
it is now possible to project the type of organi-
can be drawn up, distributing the available
sation and its scope of work in dealing with resources in money, personnel and clinical
the various problems of child welfare in facilities according to priorities that are
relation to India.
predetermined.

1 9 8
M R S . LILA ALVARES
Generally, voluntary agencies function in personnel must be put at its disposal in a
the cities, leaving out of their scope the rural liberal manner.
population. When such surveys are under-
Voluntary Agencies.—It is necessary at this
taken, they must be able to assess correctly the stage to stress the need for developing child
problems in the rural areas which are gener-
welfare work by non-governmental agencies.
ally neglected upto now, and which must re-
The work of child welfare being of such a
ceive greater attention to make up for past delicate nature is unsuitable to be handled by
neglect.
government departments. Besides, welfare
Need for Surveys.—It would be well also work takes on different patterns in different
if the surveys are divided into two broad circumstances. Government departments are
categories, preventive and curative. Preven-
too rigid for such a varied adaptation.
tive methods, as they are very often of an Bureaucracy is hardly likely to be patient with
educative type, can, in most cases, be under-
delays or sympathetic to idiosyncrasies and
taken by agencies while curative methods moods that are a constant feature of welfare
require specialised agencies, e.g., clinics, which work. If agencies could be registered with
are not possible to be established in sufficiently Government and the Indian Council for
adequate numbers except by Government Child Welfare, then only such agencies could
itself. If these two broad categories of work be given the resources that Governments
could be defined, then the tasks of allocating desire to utilise.
responsibilities would be easier and results
quicker. Work in either sphere can be carried
These resources in any case are too meagre
on independently of each other, and it will for the immense task ahead. In the Five Year
not hamper the progress of the other if work Plan, social services are allocated Rs. 339.8
in one sphere does not develop upto crores, of which Rs. 155.66 crores are
expectations.
earmarked for Education, Rs. 99.54 crores for
Health, Rs. 48.81 crores for Housing, Rs. 6.91
With so many agencies in the field, there crores for Labour and Labour Welfare and
is bound to be overlapping, wastage of efforts Rs. 28.87 crores for Welfare of Backward
and finance and uncoordinated progress. It Classes and Scheduled Castes and tribes.
will, therefore, be necessary, if the maximum Child Welfare does not find specific mention.
results are to be achieved, to coordinate the Somewhere within these allocations, e.g., in
efforts of all agencies and to make available Education and Health, the section on Child
the favourable methods of one for adoption Welfare may indirectly be given a quota.
by another. To the agencies themselves, there This also is problematical. Government must
must be given full freedom as all agencies are find some resources for this work and the rest
likely to take on a pattern of function to suit must come from the Community. Perhaps a
local conditions. They must be free to take little may be squeezed out of the Rs. 90 crores
initiative, carry out innovations in the field of allotted for Community Projects, and this too
welfare, of course within the broad framework only in those areas where Community Projects
of an agreed programme. This naturally are undertaken.
presupposes a supreme agency at the top,
which must be the Indian Council for Child
Even if resources in personnel and finances
Welfare and to which must be entrusted by are available, there still remains the need for
the Government all non-governmental res-
evolving patterns of work for implementing
ponsibilities for child welfare. Finance and the schemes of Child Welfare. No amount of

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CHILD WELFARE
1 9 9
theorising or planning on paper will make villages and 60,000 to 70,000 persons. Each
for success unless all these schemes are tested development block is in turn divided into
in actuality. It is here that the importance of groups of five villages with a village level
the Community Projects is emphasised. They worker in charge. For each Project there will
afford an opportunity for evolving different be a Project Executive Officer, a staff of 125
patterns and initiating schemes. They can be supervisors and the village level workers.
developed into the world's laboratory for Since the accent of these schemes is on the
schemes of Child Welfare of the rural pattern. development of initiative of and co-operation
The lessons and experiences in the selected by the villages, a Project Advisory Committee
areas can serve as models not merely for is provided for to assist the Project officers.
India but also for all Asian and under-
The participation of the people in the
developed countries. For here, for the first execution as well as planning is the essence
time, can be tested the effects of integrated of the whole programme
development and their cumulative effects
upon the lives of children.
Child Welfare Workers' Training.—Under
such circumstances in which non-official per-
Importance of Community Projects.— sonnel and the people co-operate in a joint
Community Projects with their integrated and endeavour, it would be possible for some
patterned development can, if properly workers to be trained in the simple schemes
worked out, serve as pilot schemes for Child of Child Welfare. If each Development
Welfare. Since they are limited to 55 Schemes Block has one such worker to interest himself
and spread out all over the country in varying in the schemes of Child Welfare, then the
physical terrain and cultural atmospheres, three workers in the three Development
their development may serve us as sample Blocks can co-ordinate the total work of
surveys, affording much analytical data. Child Welfare in the Project area. The
Education, health, housing and training for people, whose consciousness of responsibility
employment can all be experimented upon. can be aroused to co-operate in this grand
Here also, in a concentrated and approach-
adventure, can help to bring to the attention
able form, the parents of children are of these workers those children that need
available to whom a systematic approach in attention or those circumstances that need
the problems of Child Welfare is possible. remedying. In a co-operative effort of the
Concentration of efforts and the collection of people and the trained worker, even complete
resources can also be innovated. In Com-
surveys in regard to children's needs can be
munity Projects, developing society can be made.
made to include in its evolution multiple
schemes of Child Welfare.
The dearth of finance from Government,
which is the cause of the abandonment of so
The structure of Community Projects is many good schemes need not worry the social
perhaps the most encouraging aspect and one worker here. Since the accent is on co-
that lends itself to co-operative efforts to operation and self-help the villages must be
help children. Each project is about 450 to able to gather the slender resources necessary
500 square miles in area comprising nearly for this work. Cooperative effort itself keeps
300 villages with a population of about down the expenses of such schemes. What
200,000. Again each Project area is divided little is necessary beyond the sums allocated
into Development Blocks, each of about 100 by Government must be collected by the

2 0 0
M R S . LILA ALVARES
villagers in the manner of the Community can there be than to start with collective
Chests in America. This spendid community efforts to build up a Community Chest for
effort to finance the various local schemes Child Welfare in their own. Project areas.
in America needs introducing in this country.
Far too long have the people looked to
The prospects for Child Welfare work arc
Government or public charities for financing bright. Only the Governments, voluntary
efforts. It is high time now that the people agencies and the people must be brought
developed enough self-respect to have con-
together to pool their resources so that the
fidence in their own collective efforts for their children of India may be assured a happy
own advancement. What better beginning future.