Improvements needed in child protection

Moscow 27 November 2013

Child protection specialists address the need for improvements in the way the child guardianship agencies operate


The main issues to be discussed at a meeting which was to take place on 28 November in the Kremlin to be chaired by the speaker of the federation council, Valentina Matvienko, were identified in advance by the Russian Federation’s presidential co-ordinating council for the implementation of the main provisions of the National Strategy for the Promotion of Children’s Interests 2012-2017.

The chair of the co-ordinating council’s working group on the strategy, member of the public chamber and chief executive of civil rights organisation Soprotivlenie (Opposition) Olga Kostina, considered that the guardianship agencies should help families deal with their problems rather than merely exercising a supervisory role.

‘Unfortunately, in the majority of cases these agencies are just supervisory and in the worst case punitive whilst they ignore the actual problems faced by families. Admittedly there are cases where it is dangerous for a child to remain in a family and it is essential to remove it. But it is more often the case that separation from the family is disastrous for both child and parents’, said Ms Kostina. She added that there had been favourable experience of the work of the agencies in the Lipetsk region where a very effective practice had been instituted of obliging them to make several attempts to help a family resolve a crisis and only then contemplate removal into fostering. Also the legislation should expressly include the concepts of the ‘dysfunctional family’ and ‘inappropriate exercise of parental responsibilities’ as well as defining the grounds for removing a child from its family. ‘The current approach of community representatives and the staff both of the agencies and the law enforcement authorities is quite arbitrary, resulting in numerous inconsistencies and uncertainties’, added Ms Kostina.

The chair of the co-ordinating council’s working group, director of the Moscow Academy of Finance and the Humanities Galina Semya, thought that the staff of the guardianship agencies needed to upgrade their qualifications. A standard had already been developed for the further training of the professionals. ‘Now it was necessary to discuss standards which were not limited to legal knowledge but embraced education, psychology, and medicine. The staff should understand diagnoses made in respect of children’s medical conditions and what psychological issues they might encounter.’ Furthermore she pointed out that it  was important to draw up rules for working with families and for evaluating child and family wellbeing, and considered it essential that the changes be reflected in the applicable legislation. In her opinion it would be expedient to introduce an examination for agency staff which they would sit following completion of the further training course. Ms Semya was confident that ‘If we adopt these measures, we will eradicate a great many of the problems relating to families and children’.

Petr Plozhevets, chief editor of the Uchitelskaya Gazeta (The Education News), also a member of the working group, agreed with this approach. He said: ‘The working of the guardianship agencies today raises a great number of issues. There are no clear criteria for identifying problem families nor are there standard rules governing the provision of help to them. These issues are acute and growing ever more urgent. Decisions are need to be taken at parliamentary level. They should not be put off.’

Author Yulia Vyatinka

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