Despite the fact that for many of our children we provide the only family they have ever known, we are only licensed by the government to look after them until they reach age 18 when they are considered to be adults. While we aim to place as many as possible in college, back with their relatives or in suitable employment with accommodation provided, for many this is not an option. It’s also well documented that children who have grown up in institutions like our Rehab Center need additional support to adjust back into the ‘real world’.
In the past year, we have been developing aftercare homes for our over 18s. These are in rented homes accommodating up to eight young adults within Ahmednagar city. The main purpose is to support them into living independently as adults while also providing them live-in independent living mentors who play a role of big brother or sister helping them to adjust to living outside our institution. We are confident that by providing this facility our children will be able to learn the skills we normally learn from our parents and other relatives, such as cooking, money management and house-keeping with support from our counsellors and case managers.
Last December, six of our over 18 boys moved into our first aftercare home. We are pleased to report that they are thriving, continuing their education and working part time to cover their rent and living expenses. They cook and clean together and are doing well in both their studies and work. Following the success of the boys’ transition, six of our over 18 girls moved into their aftercare home in July. Situated close to the main Ahmednagar colleges, they too are adjusting well, making their own house rules and searching for part-time work outside of their college timetables.
Before both groups left our Rehab Center we hosted a farewell program giving them and their friends to say goodbye. The aftercare girls and boys shared their gratitude for all the support their Snehalaya family had given them over the years, thanked the staff that have cared for them and described their excitement about moving on to live in our aftercare homes. Both send-offs were emotional as the youngsters said goodbye to their Snehalaya family, even though they are still very much a part of it. They also received new clothes for their new lives and we were also able to wish them all the best of luck and reassure them it is not goodbye but see you later. Our aftercare boys came for the girls' farewell to offer extra assurance that this is an exciting next chapter for them.
Previously, despite our best intentions and preparation of children, too many of our former beneficiaries have struggled living independently, particularly those living with HIV. Our aftercare homes give them the independence they crave once they reach 18 but with the safety net of still being Snehalaya beneficiaries. They take complete responsibility for their daily routines and activities, while regular check-ins from our team ensure they have support on hand whenever they need it.
Our aftercare beneficiaries are able to live in these homes until they are 21 but we are hopeful that they feel confident to strike out on their own before this.