CHILDLINE 1098: A Phone Number That Spells Hope for Millions of Children Across India

In India, the CHILDLINE 1098 phone number is synonymous with hope and help for millions of needy children. This free emergency phone service is available 24/7, 365 days a year, to aid and assist children in crisis. Since its inception, the CHILDLINE service has connected with three million children across the nation, offering them care and protection.

CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) is the nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development responsible for setting up, managing, and monitoring the CHILDLINE 1098 service throughout the country.

CIF is the sole agency responsible for establishing the CHILDLINE service across the country, including monitoring service delivery and finance, training, research and documentation, creating awareness, advocacy, and resource generation for the service.

The beginning

The story of CHILDLINE began in June 1996 when Ms Jeroo Billimoria, then a professor at TISS, founded it as a field action project of the Department of Family and Child Welfare.

Billimoria started by interacting with children staying at railway stations or at Mumbai’s night shelters. As she began to connect with these children in crisis, they contacted her at all hours of the day and night.

While Billimoria found validation in her work while answering and responding to the calls of children in need, she soon realised that she couldn’t respond to the hundreds of children who needed help.

She realised that a tele-helpline could solve the need expressed by the children on the streets – a need to have instant support when they are ill, injured or just want to talk to someone. What was required was a one-point contact that would quickly connect children to services they need during or after a crisis.

When the children learned about a crisis phone number, they had genuine concerns: “We roam ten cities. How will we remember ten numbers?” “It costs money to make a phone call; what happens when we are broke?” While the solution seemed simple, the realisation of that dream was a challenging journey in itself. It took three years, two dharnas by the children themselves, and a threat of a hunger strike to establish 1098 as the national toll-free number for children finally.

However, there seemed to be a problem. One that could have been perceived as minor but would have had a massive impact on the plan’s success.

Simply, ‘One-Zero-Nine-Eight’ did not seem catchy enough for children to remember. There was no association with the number. Then a solution came from the children themselves. One of whom suggested to Ms Billimoria to call it ‘Ten-Nine-Eight’ instead! As usual, children saw what grown-ups had failed to see, and that’s the story of how ‘Dus-Nau-Aath’ came to be.

With strong motivations and dedication to making a child-friendly nation that guarantees the rights and protection of all children, CHILDLINE India Foundation was formed in 1999.

Between 1997 and 2000, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment agreed to fund CHILDLINE at the national level.

The Work

At CHILDLINE, the non-government organisation is working on the following:

  • Call 1098 – Any child or a concerned adult can dial the CHILDLINE 1098 helpline, which operates night and day.
  • Connected to CHILDLINE centre – The call is received by the CHILDLINE centre, where details about the situation are taken from the caller, and CHILDLINE units are mobilised if necessary.
  • Rescue in 60 minutes – Once CHILDLINE has enough details about a child or children in distress, the CHILDLINE team rushes
  • to help children within 60 minutes to bring children out of an emergency.
  • Intervention – Once CHILDLINE intervenes to help the child, it works with multiple stakeholders such as police authorities, child protection boards, social workers and counsellors. Children’s consent and participation is an important components of this process from response to intervention.
  • Rehabilitation and Follow-Up – After the interventions, to ensure the child’s continued safety, CHILDLINE proceeds to find long-term rehabilitation for the child. For this, the CHILDLINE team does constant follow-ups with the child – meeting the family or visiting the shelter if a child has been assigned to stay in one.

In conclusion, CHILDLINE’s action process is designed to provide a holistic approach to the care and protection of children in need. By following the steps outlined in their process, CHILDLINE ensures that every child in distress receives timely and appropriate help.

Overall, CHILDLINE’s approach is a testament to their commitment to the welfare of children and their efforts to create a safer and more nurturing environment for them.

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