When Staff Hits A Child With Disabilities

I consider this one of the “hard subjects” of taking care of orphan children, abled and with disabilities.  Some years ago I fired two teachers for hitting a child so hard her mouth bled profusely.  One was a Montessori teacher.  In both cases the teachers tried to hide what they did, and the children did not report it.  In both cases I learned about it quickly and fired the teachers. 

What happens when children do not have voice?  Yesterday I was suddenly called to the dressing room because Bornali was screaming and bleeding from the nose.   She had just been in the shower and was now on a mat being dressed.  She is difficult to manage physically because of her size and kicking.  No one would say what happened, no one saw anything.  I accepted that maybe she had knocked herself while being bathed.

That was yesterday.  Today I learned that one of the childcare workers had hit her in the face with her fist.  Another person knew but was concealing it.  She told a teacher who also concealed it.  This afternoon I learned the truth after someone told someone who told someone who told me.  The childcare worker and the teacher are gone.  For the teacher it was a second time she has known but not said.

Once, two years ago I looked up from my desk and saw a childcare worker “fling” a child by an arm and leg.  I rushed into the room, but everyone else in the room denied that anything had happened.  There was nothing I could do.  No, I can’t, especially as a foreigner fire someone for something no one else present saw.  Several weeks later this woman did something else bad.  I don’t remember what.  I fired her.  Then I heard many stories of how she had been abusing the children.

This is not unique to Shishur Sevay, or to India.  It happens everywhere.  It’s the “dirty little secret” of taking care of children, especially those who cannot speak.  All doors at Shishur Sevay have glass.  Privacy is dangerous to children.  I know I will “take heat” in the community for this.  I believe that abuse is widespread, in schools, Homes, and homes.  We have a “child protection policy” that says you MUST report any abuse you see.  But no one will do it.

Tonight I hugged Bornali and told her this person was gone, that she would never come back.  Bornali rested her head on my arm and closed her eyes.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Arun Debnath
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 17:34:39

    My heart goes with you [and your daughters] as to what you do and under what circumstances in a foreign land full of intellectuals, politicians and pious people! In my last visit to the children’s heaven I was fortunate enough to meet Bornali. In my simple mind I can’t even visualise how a normal human being [of course, what I do know about human behaviours !] can hit such a precious little “thing” escapes me. Please pass on my love to Bornali and to you all.

    Arun Debnath, London, Durga Puja Day 1


  2. elaine
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 17:54:55

    Those girls are so lucky that you are there to advocate for them. Physical punishment for any child is such a touchy subject….but for a child with disabilities??? And not just talking a little swat here…a strike enough to cause bleeding??? Just what message would that send to the child??


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October 2011
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