Lives of Abandonment

Today a large delegation of legislative dignitaries came to visit Aunty’s Home.  I wrote a report of what we had experienced in trying to find proper care for the children in her home.  Here is what I  gave to the dignitaries. 

Dr. Michelle Harrison

Founder and Board Secretary

Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay



                                                                                                       Summary Report on Conditions at


24 December 2011 to 24 January 2012


Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay is an NGO established in 2006 for the care of orphan girls, some with disabilities.  We visited 24 December as part of our community service and outreach.  We found that conditions had deteriorated.  Aunty wanted my medical advice as I am familiar with the problems of running such a home. 

  • CWC sent 10 boys over the objection of Aunty, boys with severe behavior problems in addition to their disabilities.  They have been violent towards the other boys, and stealing food from the younger ones. These boys raised the number of residents above sanctioned number, but more important seriously disrupted the peace and functioning of the home.  The government has not been able/willing to take them back and relieve this crisis in spite of Aunty’s appeals.
  • Funds ran out as expected government funds did not come, and private funds also did not materialize as expected.  Most staff left; physiotherapists and educators could not be paid and did not come.  Medical help likewise did not arrive.
  • The children with severe disabilities cannot walk, or feed or toilet themselves.  Without staff, the children could not be bathed or fed properly;  The children lost weight.  They require specialized staff so they do not choke.
  • Beginning on 24th December we started hospitalizing the most frail children at XXXXXX Hospital.  They were discharged after 2-3 weeks because doctors had all gone to Gangasagar Festival.  The children lost weight while in hospital.  No test were done, no medicine given for infections.
  • Shishur Sevay agreed to take one child who was misdiagnosed as MR.  This was done through CWC.  At that time the CWC in XXXXX was made aware of the problem that the children were being discharged but they were unable to prevent the discharge.
  • Local merchants became belligerent because they were not paid.  The children were not de-wormed. 
  • Aunty alerted the CWC Kolkata that she was over capacity and needed to transfer the ten boys.  She went several times and was put off until next meetings.  Finally on 18th January she was given an order to transfer six boys to another home.  However on the 19th when she took the children there, that home refused to take them and sent them back,
  • 20th January 2012, I hired an ambulance to take eight weakened children who had been discharged from the hospital to CWC Kolkata.  Aunty was out of options for their care, and was honest in the problems facing her home, namely that she considered it sub-standard and did not want to keep children under these conditions.
  • 20th January 2012 CWC Kolkata said they had no place to send the children.  We learned that there is no government facility for multiply disabled children and they said the children would have to return to Aunty’s.  They were however able to convince Sr. XXXX at XXXXX to take two children temporarily, and were able to get the child with a head infection admitted to a hospital.  The other five returned. 


I am a retired doctor, psychiatrist, and professor from the US. Before retirement I was with Johnson & Johnson Corporate as Worldwide Director of Medical Affairs in the consumer division.  I have been involved with care and education of children in West Bengal since 2000.  I founded a home for orphans in 2006.  I stay there with the children.


  1. The care of children with disabilities is labor intensive as the children cannot move, eat, toilet on their own.  This makes their care far more expensive than that of abled children.
  2. Homes cannot operate without funds.  The current system assumes that NGO’s will find private donors, in India or abroad to pay the real costs of care, while the government’s funds are insufficient.  Essentially the government is saying to the NGO’s, find someone to pay for these (government) children.
  3. Hospitalization is not free.  Staff must be supplied to care for the hospitalized children, as well as food, medicines, and laboratory tests.  Even warm water for bathing a sick child has to be purchased.
  4. The above refer to basic survival of the children with disabilities and does not address rehabilitation, quality of life, education, play, security, and affection.  Those don’t happen without staff and professionals, and they don’t come without payment.  Though abandoned by families, these children should not live lives of abandonment.


 Respectfully submitted,


Dr. Michelle Harrison


Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay

24 January 2012

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January 2012
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