There are 8 million children living in child care institutions and 85% of them have a living parent or a relative. Research shows that children who grow up in Child Care Institutions are at a high risk to suffer from Poor Cognitive Development, have difficulty in forming emotional bonds with others, and also undergo physical, developmental and psychological delays.
Keeping all this in mind, international non-profit Miracle Foundation through their work reunite children with the families. They follow a unique individual child care plan for every child and they know that this is not the easiest way to do it. But they believe that every child deserves this level of consideration.
Miracle Foundation India, with its parent organization, actively partakes in aiding the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those that impact vulnerable children. Among the 17 Global Goals laid out envisioning to improve the lives of people all over the world further by 2030, Miracle Foundation India is working on 8 of them.
As the foundation gears towards its 20th year of working with disadvantaged children, founder Caroline Boudreaux talked to The CSR Journal about child rights, CSR and her amazing story.
Congratulations on nearly 20 years of Miracle Foundation. Where does the foundation operate?
Thank you so much! The Miracle Foundation’s support hub is in Austin, Texas in the United States. In India, we have offices in Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi. However, we support children all across India and are proud to do it.
What inspired you to work with orphanages?
The story behind Miracle Foundation dates back to Mother’s Day 2000 when I first met a little girl named Sheebani and 100 other children without parents at a local home in rural India. Up until then, I had never met an orphan. Not only was this the first time I ever visited a child care institution (CCI), but also the first time I saw the plight and the pain that parentless children endure.
When Sheebani put her head on my knee, I picked her up, and she pushed her body into mine. I sang her a lullaby and rocked her to sleep. I went upstairs to put her into her crib and was shocked to see that there wasn’t one. Instead, the room was filled with hard, wooden-slatted beds.
I laid that angel down and heard her bones hit the boards. I broke. I couldn’t believe that any child had to live like this. Here I was, traveling around without a care, and these children were going to bed hungry and lonely every night, on hard wooden beds. I was angry, hurt, and embarrassed. It was a day that changed my life forever. At that very moment, I decided I had to do something to help these children and others like them. From this, the idea for Miracle Foundation was born.
I went back home, quit my job, and founded an NGO with the mission to empower children without parents to reach their full potential. One hundred seventy-six children’s homes and 10,064 children later, we still have a lot of great work to do.
Do you follow the same model in all the centers, or does it vary? Could you elaborate on the model?
Yes, our model is based on the rights of the child, and everything we do has its roots in these rights. Our expertise lies in training and collaboration. We work with 106 children’s homes in India and have collaborated with many like-minded organizations. We created a model that is replicable and scalable so, through partnerships with state governments across India and other NGOs, we are bringing life-changing care to vulnerable children, wherever they are.
Our programme is delivered by professionals, with the experience and expertise to work with at-risk youth. We have a team on the ground in India visiting the children we support every month, providing guidance, encouragement, and caregiver training. We leverage expert trainers to provide life skills education to the children and train the tutors at children’s homes. Also, we work with subject matter experts in family placements, child rights, attachment, medical care, mental health, education, and governance. And this remains constant throughout all our work.
The foundation also works towards reuniting children in orphanages with their parents. Not all kids in orphanages are orphans. How so?
It’s true; many children live in CCI’s because their parents are too poor and don’t have the money or resources to keep them. What a high price to pay for being poor!
When you combine that with a breakdown in relationships, you see this type of separations occur. Why do children have to be separated from their parents to get services? Our solution allows us to approach this from two angles. We look at the prevention side – we work on helping families stay together instead of only helping children once they are separated. At the same time, for the children already separated and living in CCIs — we work with CCI’s to make sure that children are getting their rights met and that the children who live there have a chance to live with a family whenever possible.
Our work is on helping children realize their rights no matter where they live and living with a family or relative when possible is the Number 1 right.
How would livelihood generation for the parents help the cause of these children?
We look at the well-being domains or rights which include support to strengthen the family and relationships they have with each other, extended family, their neighbours, and community members. We work with families to ensure they have a secure and stable household economy – does someone have a job, can they pay rent and bills, etc.
Looking at the crime rate in the neighbourhood and making sure the parents have a place for all family members to sleep and eat is essential. Ensuring parents and children continue to have access to education, health, and mental health care is necessary as well. Ultimately, our approach is strength-based. It’s important to approach the family and child looking for strengths to build upon.
Who are the funders and donors for Miracle Foundation?
Miracle Foundation has over 500 people who donate monthly to our cause. This is a very powerful way to invest in our work because it helps us set a budget and know exactly how much money we have to support the children. We have some major donors and corporates who like our work because it is so metric-driven, but interestingly, most of our monthly donors are under 30.
Is CSR funding increasing from India since the formulation of Section 135 in the Companies Act, 2013?
The CSR laws are great, but we find that most corporates want to fund projects in their backyard. Often, that is not where the need is. Most of our work is in rural areas. Unfortunately, the poor are inconveniently located. We know that there is great suffering in the villages, but unless a corporate has a plant there, it’s tough to find ones who will help children they can’t get to easily. This is a big problem. The invisible are often ignored, and in this case, the invisible are our children.
If each one of us did our part and gave a small percentage of our income every month to an NGO that was vetted, it would make an enormous difference. NGOs that have found a way to show donors where their rupees are going, and the impact they’re having are the successful ones. The Miracle Foundation uses a Thrive Scale so that donors can know precisely where their money is going.
How is the impact measured? Could you share some statistics?
We have a robust monitoring and evaluation framework, which helps us track our impact across programmes and interventions.
-Miracle Foundation is currently supporting 6,075 children in India.
-We are currently working with 106 child care institutions.
-In 2019, we’re on track to support over 12,000 children through our work with governments, NGOs, and child care institutions. We’ll be working closely with over 1600 government officials and over 300 parents as well.
-687 children – placed into families
-320 children are trained in computer literacy
-200+ children are receiving mental health support
-504 staff trained in child development, positive discipline, & the rights of the child
-351 children studying in higher education
We have robust children’s committees in each CCI to ensure the children have an opportunity to have their voice heard and participate in decisions that affect them. We recently selected 12 children to become youth ambassadors to raise awareness on issues such as children’s rights to family in the voice of kids who are living that experience.
Do you work with the government to bring impact on scale?
Yes, our model is scalable as well as replicable, so we are partnering with state governments across India, as well as other NGOs. We are bringing meaningful lifelong change to the lives of children. We are encouraged by the political will we are seeing to help these kids. They’re not only ensuring that policies are in place that protect children, but they’re also working with families and CCI’s to affect systematic change.
What kind of partnerships with corporates is the foundation looking at?
We are currently exploring corporate partnerships in areas around orphan care. One initiative that we’re actively working towards is partnering with corporates that want to make a systematic change and are interested in 10-year partnerships. This is how long it’s going to take us to reach the tipping point in orphan care.
Which SDGs are the foundation’s goals aligned with?
We are working on eight of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals issued by the United Nations in 2015:
-SDG 1: No poverty
-SDG 2: Zero hunger
-SDG 3: Good health
-SDG 4: Quality education
-SDG 5: Gender Equality
-SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation
-SDG 16: Peace and justice
-SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Our focus is on working together to achieve these global goals with more significant impact for parentless children through developing critical partnerships with other governments, companies, and organizations.
Working as part of a movement on this scale, one that is based on the Sustainable Development Goals, has been a great driver for our efforts. Having a thorough framework in place helps us to track progress along the way, making the work that much more meaningful. At Miracle Foundation, we have a clear starting point – to identify the most vulnerable children and help them first.
We are working towards a common goal of a loving family for every child.