Statement of Values and Tenets of Practice:
Building homes not institutions:
Below are the key requirements that the Right Now Foundation expect from our homes.
The leaders are viewed as the home’s parents; in this a couple is vital. The children are encouraged to call them “auntie” or “uncle,” or, in some cases even “mummy” or “daddy”. The children refer to each other as “aka” (sister) or “ana” (brother). The usage of intimate language removes the formal structure of the hierarchy, vital in a very hierarchical society like India, and works against the “type”, of the arcane institutions, which strive to perpetuate and ingrain the idea of hierarchy and the distance of the adult, who remain authoritarian figures. The homes are ordered to encourage the idea of family. (see below).
The lead couple must be known within their community to be of “good” character, who take the lead in the community in some way, or are considered to be “valued” within their community in some way.
By their very nature the homes exist to provide a place for children who come from broken homes, and often following traumatic experiences in those homes. Either from the death or disappearance of one or both of their parents, to say nothing of a number of other life threatening deprivations: always malnutrition, often some minor illnesses or infections, usually some degree of neglect verging on abandonment, little parental or family nurturing.
In this the home is designed to feel like the family they never had. The core values in this regard are to provide a place and environment which is:
c) Which provides food security.
d) Emotional security and protection.
e) Where they are able to form a bond with a stable adult influence with whom they can build trust and in whom they can feel nurtured and supported.
f) Well – being.
g) Builds self – esteem and self – confidence.
3. Low numbers:
The number of children in the homes should be in the region of twenty to thirty.
4. Staff ratio:
There should be at least one member of staff per eight children (with a target of one staff member to five children during periods after school. These numbers can include the tutors so long as they regularly attend the home (min. 5 times a week).
The role of the tutor must extend beyond that of merely a tuition master who insists on homework being completed. It is expected that they will build strong rapport with the children and be a role model to them.
In contrast to most children’s homes which are established in towns and draw children into it from far and wide, it has been and largely remains our intention to try and establish homes in more remote areas, which while still taking children from quite a wide radius, do at least, remain within what might be called, reasonable access, to the remaining family of the children. There are many “semi” orphans, a term used to refer to single parenthood, usually the mother, who having been widowed or abandoned is left destitute, who will be living in abject poverty with no means to bring up her children. In the worst of these scenarios we take the children. It is vital for the children to remain rooted within their family and village network, and to visit them as often as is possible where the relationships are healthy, so as not to break this most vital of connections between the remaining family and the children: the family in India remains the most central element to the interconnectivity of the whole populace to date.
Education is vital, however, in this we feel the need to exercise pragmatism over ideals and consider it better to work within the existing framework available to the children through government schooling.
Furthermore, the children’s presence at the local schools ensures they remain linked in to their community and build important and lifelong relationships with their peers, as it is clear that in reality the children are likely to grow up and marry within their community, it is hoped better equipped to garner better employment.
In addition to academic education we will also direct children toward vocational training courses or even apprenticeships, where appropriate, so that they will be equipped at least with some skill and training by the time they come of age.
Play is a core value, despite it being an obvious component of a child’s life. Homes are required to construct actual periods of “play” or “structured” play which is lead by an adult. Leaders and staff all receive training in play and are encouraged to use such times for creative expression, dance, music, art, as well as physical group lead activity, which could be sport and such like.
It is necessary to build this into the “core” tenets of our homes as it has been and can easily be overlooked and considered one thing a child is able to do without supervision.
8. Role Models and Values
In the absence of parent figures, it is important that the leaders and those involved in primary care and or nurturing of the children are good role models who instill values that build character and strong moral fibre.
9. Ownership / Governance
The homes are run on the basis of trust. The leaders once appointed and after a period of intense scrutiny are encouraged to take on a sense of ownership of the work, which becomes their work.
The more the leaders take the lead the better it is for the home, as the children also begin to buy into the idea of belonging to an entity with a strong identity, run by leaders who are proud of what they are doing, which instills in the children are strong sense of pride which can replace the sense of damaged family pride.
To compliment the idea of ownership the home leaders are tied into a network, which takes the form of monthly meetings where there is a forum for them to discuss all the issues that arise from caring for children. The network provides support and on – going scrutiny. It is a place where they exchange information about what is actually happening in the homes which also leads to policy, while existing policy is challenged in the light of what is happening. The whole process is very hands on and is informed from the ground, or rather the child up.
10. Cultural Relativism
While the homes and the Foundation has been run by a U.K. board of trustees and a U.K national in situ, it has been a clear intention from the outset to ensure that the cultural value system in place locally is respected and that no contradictory values are imposed from above.
11. Home is for life
Most homes force the children to leave at sixteen or certainly eighteen. We believe a home is for life and the relationships that have been formed in that home are akin to those of any other home and as such the children are always welcome and supported. If they do not succeed in getting employment we see that as, in part, our failing and want to find alternative ways that child, now become an adult, might find a means to support themselves, marry and build a life in their community. Our goal in this regard is to ensure none of the children we support slip through the cracks and return to a life of poverty and destitution, whether we realize this goal in all cases is unlikely, but a goal is set in part as something to aspire to and we think this one is one worth striving for.