Improving support for parentless children

Moscow 13 May 2014

NGOs have been identifying areas of social work with parentless children needing support


Participants in an interregional meeting, Joining Forces to Help Our Children: Supporting Best Practice amongst NGOs, organised by the public chamber’s committee on social policy, industrial relations and quality of life matters, ASI, and the Elena and Gennady Timchenko charity, have commended the institution of the professional foster family, preventive work with families of origin and the development of models for preventing family difficulties at regional level.

The meeting took place on 13 May at the federal public chamber and included a video link to the regional chambers in the Karelia, Leningrad, Ryazan  and Tambov oblasts. Children without parents and accommodating children in a family were a priority for the state, according to Elena Topoleva, the chair of the above committee. She observed that today NGOs and business as well as the state engaged with the issues.

Over the last five years there had not been many adoptions within Russian families but the number had grown. Last year there had been only a three percent increase, but the ministry of education and science hoped that the positive trend would be maintained. In 2013 62,973 children had been taken in by families, which was 1,500 more than in 2012. Last year over 569 children had been placed with foster families, which exceeded the number of children who lacked parental care. The figures were cited by the deputy director of the ministry’s child welfare department, Vladimir Kabanov.

However, nearly 69,000 orphans and 38,000 other children lacking parental care had been identified according to Mr Kabanov. ‘As previously, many of them are apprehended to be in families whose dysfunction has reached a stage where they are beyond the help of either the state or communal organisations and the guardianship agencies are forced to apply to the court to have parental rights removed’, he observed.

In 2013 alone 40,000 citizens were deprived of their parental rights. Mr Kabanov said the main reason (in 72% of instances) was parents evading their responsibilities, and not alcoholism, as had been previously thought. Nearly 5000 or 12% of parents lost their parental rights because of chronic alcoholism and drug addiction, 2,500 following rejection of children at birth and 2,000 for abusing their parental responsibilities. Mr Kabanov added that in order to adopt a comprehensive approach to the problem of the lack of parental care for social reasons, the regions should enlist support including from NGOs. ‘This is essential when providing social, psychological, educational, or legal support to families to avoid a child losing parental care’, he explained.

Maria Morozova, the general director of the Elena and Gennady charity observed that it was necessary to develop the institution of the professional foster family. She said: ‘The government talks about adoption being the priority for parentless children but experience at home and abroad shows that even where there exists a system of rehabilitation and prevention not all children are successfully and speedily settled in a family. It is even harder to find adopters for teenagers, brothers and sisters, and children with special needs. We are working towards professional foster families’. The charity has set up 3 villages for foster children – in the Ryazan, Leningrad and Tambov oblasts. Today 43 families are receiving help there, 190 children are being cared for, of whom 142 are being fostered. Every village provides psychological support services for parents and children.

Ms Morozova says that it is essential to develop varied forms of foster family with the focus on resolving the problems of each actual child. ‘However,’ she went on,’it is important to assure all kinds of families training, guidance and support, whether at state or communal level, effective legislation, interdisciplinary and interdepartmental cooperation, teaching programmes and change in social attitudes towards foster families.’

Currently, the charity is helping to manage a competition for social projects called Family Channel. NGOs in the oblasts mentioned could receive 4 million roubles for the implementation of social projects in the field of preventing social parentlessness, settling parentless children in a family, and caring for orphans and other children who lack parental care. The competition has three main aspects:  family as destination – projects aimed at settling parentless children in families; the family as safe harbour, preventing social parentlessness; and, navigating independently – projects aimed at adaptation to life after an institution/looking after children who lack parental oversight.

Applications will be accepted until 20:00 hrs on 2 June (Moscow time).

A meeting between NGOs, representatives of the public chambers of and specialists from the oblasts mentioned worked up recommendations for improving the system of support for NGOs implementing projects relating to the three competition themes. The representatives drew attention to the necessity of focusing on work with families of origin and not merely with foster families, publicising widely competitions for socially oriented NGOs for the award of grants, training specialists, recruiting commercial concerns, implementing social projects and creating resource centres to support NGOs.

In the opinion of professor Marina Guryanova, acting director of the Institute of Social Work Training of the Russian Academy of Education, it is essential to strengthen the academic component of NGOs’ work. She said that experience from abroad showed that the effectiveness of social work in the field of prevention would be significantly higher if local authority systems and models of preventing social problems were to be developed.

‘Such development would need to be targeted at the realistic possibilities and resources available in an actual region. The reasons for family difficulties must be analysed as they might be applicable to that particular region. There would have to be monitoring and the aim would need to be to produce concrete positive results’, said Ms Guryanova.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina


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