Soon word spread about Mottukal and the rpf, police and the state government’s Child-Line began referring ‘cases’ to the sisters. "Today, we can’t take care of more than 60 children here. We then refer them to other boarding houses," says Sister Mercy, Mottukal’s current director. "Besides runaway cases (which top the list), children from broken families, those living on the streets, the abused, those who have migrated to the city looking for work or glamour and excitement, all find shelter here. In the last nine months, we have had 23 new cases, a majority of them victims of sexual abuse."
Currently, the Mottukal team is grappling with a 13-year-old traumatised by her father’s brutality. Says Sister Mercy, "She can’t sleep at night, has nightmares and does not interact with other kids. Her mother visits occasionally but she herself can’t ever return home. Her father comes home drunk and does not know the difference between daughter and wife." Some runaways are also ‘love failure’ cases. "Children in the 13-16 age group seek love outside; when they don’t find it in their families...they succumb to the lure of romantic love."