Maharashtra: Govt asks CWC to observe protocol; resolution on youngster’s custody this week
By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: December 8, 2020 2:43:08 AM
The state Department of Women’s and Child Development (WCD) called on Monday a one-hour meeting with officials from the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the NGO Family Service Center (FSC) in connection with the custody case for a two-year-old toddler.
The boy is in the middle of a custody battle between his 30-year-old birth mother, who was treated for schizophrenia in Mumbai, and a Bollywood director who has been caring for the child since May.
Officials who attended the meeting said the WCD department had directed the CWC to follow protocol and allow the child to rehabilitate at the earliest under the Juvenile Justice Act. A formal decision on custody of the child is expected later this week.
In a meeting on December 1, the foster parents asked the CWC to allow the baby to remain in their care because the mother was mentally unable to care for the child. The CWC then ordered the boy to be moved from the foster family to a government-run home.
However, the decision was overturned by an order issued late at night. The child was returned to the foster parents around 3:30 a.m. on December 2nd.
The department asked the CWC how the foster parents were allowed to keep the child when they were given instructions to send them to a home.
“It has never happened before a child was brought back from a home in the middle of the night to care for caregivers. The CWC said it reversed the decision because the child at the shelter may be unsafe amid the pandemic. At today’s meeting, the CWC said it would work within the law and take further steps, “said Prema Gadge, WCD deputy official in Mumbai.
The CWC is now waiting for the mother’s new medical fitness certificate from a government hospital to assess her mental state before the child is handed over. “We have already coordinated with the CWC in Bihar, where the woman’s father lives, to monitor the child after he has been transferred there. All we need now is the mother’s fitness certificate, ”said a CWC member.
The Bihar-born mother moved her newborn baby from Kanpur, where she lived with her husband, in 2019 and reached Mumbai.
Unknown to her, she suffered from schizophrenia. Her illness was diagnosed last September after Borivali Government Railroad Police (GRP) found her on the street with her seriously injured child. The boy had bite marks and wounds all over his body.
The NVC suspected that the mother had beaten the child and referred the baby to the CWC, which via the FSC sent it for care.
The mother was treated for schizophrenia from September 2019 to January 2020 at the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation, an NGO for the treatment of mental illness. By last November she had managed to remember her father’s address in Bhojpur, Bihar.
She received a fitness certificate from the Shraddha Foundation in January and met her son on January 21st. Since then she has been trying to get his custody.
“She can stay stable if she continues on her medication. We have assured the CWC that we will provide her with free medication and will also refer her to a local psychiatrist in Bihar, ”said Dr. Bharat Vatwani, founder of the Shraddha Foundation.
CWC officials said since the fitness certificate is 10 months old, a new one was being sought.
On November 4th, the FSC wrote to the woman’s father to come and take the child with him. The biological father was also contacted, but he had refused to come to Mumbai. Subsequently, in later meetings at the CWC on November 24th and December 1st, the NGO and the foster parents demanded that the child be allowed to stay with them.
The toddler is currently in the care of the foster family. The FSC has given government officials assurances that the foster family does not intend to adopt him. “At the time of selection, we conduct a thorough examination of our foster families and homes. You will be advised and prepared for all factors involved in this process. We currently have eight foster children, all in different homes, and they are doing very well, ”FSC Director Nirmala Fernandes told The Indian Express in an email.
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