The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016 requires Social Investigation Reports (SIRs) to be prepared for children once they are apprehended. An SIR is a comprehensive report containing information pertaining to the child’s economic, social, psycho-social background and other relevant factors, and the recommendations thereon. It serves as a tool to aid stakeholders in the system including social workers and the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in understanding the circumstances under which the alleged offence was committed.
Till date, CCL has conducted 28 SIRs. Working with the children and their families to prepare SIRs has provided us with insights into the importance of these tools and how they need to be administered. We’ve learnt that the first step is to make the family and the child aware about the nature and purpose of SIRs. We have observed that the dearth of awareness of the JJ Act procedures coupled with the lack of communication with the lawyer in many cases, leaves the family with almost no knowledge about the magnitude of this document. To create an effective SIR encompassing the child’s psychosocial background, it is important that rapport and trust is built and more importantly, the family and child feel safe, secure and comfortable. It is also important to ensure that the power dynamics between us and the family (and child) do not come into play.
Our SIR experiences have allowed us to understand that we should be seen as enablers and facilitators to reduce the “us and them” divide. Through the SIRs, the importance of letting the child’s family vent their emotions within a safe space to express their feelings, hardships etc., has also been felt. A lot of hidden messages and psychosocial issues can emerge from this expression. Hence, social workers must not restrict themselves to the questions in the SIR and allow for conversations beyond that structure to gain useful information relevant to the SIR and further, help in devising effective interventions.
Apart from preparation of SIRs, CCL also plans to work to build capacities of social workers and probationary officers to ensure these children are supported with comprehensive care and interventions through effective SIRs which encompasses their psychosocial circumstances and backgrounds.