Moscow orphans to leave institutions for family-style accommodation?
Will it be possible to move parentless
children out of an institution and provide them with a family lifestyle?
28 March at a meeting of the inter-departmental working group on the
implementation of the legislation concerned with social support for orphans and
parentless children, in which Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow took part, a
new welfare model for the population of Moscow and for the reform of boarding
institutions was presented. The welfare authorities will be engaging with
issues relating to social orphans. Boris Altshuler, deputy chair of the federal
public chamber’s committee for social policy, labour relations and quality of
life issues and chair of the organisation, ‘Children’s Rights’, gave ASI an
interview in which he explained his approach to dealing with the issues of
accommodating and bringing up parentless children and about the prospects for
carrying out rehabilitation work with families.
Altshuler said he had stressed at the meeting that experience over many years
had shown how difficult it was to effect change at federal level. This meant
that the reforms planned for Moscow were highly significant. He supported the
proposal of Vadim Menshov, director of boarding school No 8, for arrangements
to be made for youngsters in care to be accommodated in apartments rather than
an institution so as to provide them with a family type setting. No change
would be required to the federal legislation. This proposal had recently come
up in discussions amongst specialists and it was reassuring to know that it had
the backing of Mr Sobyanin.
the practicalities, Mr Altshuler said that apartments would have to be financed
out of Moscow’s special accommodation fund. They would be regarded as forming
part of the premises of the organisation with which the youngsters were
registered. Several of these would be transferred to the apartments where the
person in charge, a member of the organisation’s staff, would live permanently.
The most dreadful aspect of institutional living for youngsters was the lack of
personal space and of a significant adult. We who live in normal circumstances
and speak of ‘home’ or ‘family’ know very well what is signified. It is really
hard to comprehend that thousands of youngsters grow up in conditions where
these are alien concepts. As a rule those in charge of boarding establishments
keep changing and leave the youngsters with a carer overnight. That is normal
practice. It is different when a youngster is being brought up in a family
group. Those in charge are always present, replicating family-style living.
reply to a question about how realistic the proposals were and whether finance
would be forthcoming from the municipality, Mr Altshuler said that the
municipality could do it tomorrow. A small number of apartments would be needed
from the city housing stock. It would be possible to transfer both older
children and those who had health issues.
For example it would be possible to deal with home No 15 in Moscow which
houses 400 intellectually disabled children in this way. There is a queue of
severely ill children waiting for places in the home for whom the parents
cannot care appropriately. Those children could be placed in apartments with
live-in carers. Whilst domiciliary support would be needed from educators,
psychologists, and medical staff and others, the position of natural and foster
families is no different. Given the availability of such support parents would
not be forced to give up their children who have disabilities to a boarding
a system would work out considerably cheaper for the municipality than existing
practice. .For example, taking into account its huge staffing complement and
expenditure on servicing the premises, home No 15 costs about 100,000 rouble per month for each
child. This is mad money. If the child lives in an apartment whether with their
natural family, a foster family or a family type fostering group, significantly
less expenditure would be required. If such a system were to be introduced in
Moscow it would set a precedent for the whole country. It would be
regards rehabilitation work with families, Moscow’s welfare department is
creating a so-called social resource for work with families. Support services
will operate everywhere although it is not yet clear who is to co-ordinate
them. This is an open question not for the capital alone but for all the
regions. Working with families demands co-ordination between a large number of
services. However experience does exist in Russia of individual pilot projects
in the Moscow, Krasnoyarsk and Saratov regions which were co-ordinated by a
commission for minors’ affairs and the protection of their rights.
serious issue resides in the fact that the Moscow courts tend to rubber stamp
deprivation of parental rights orders. These courts do not require
rehabilitation work to be undertaken with families because there is no system
for carrying out such work anywhere in the country. The statistics show that in
a high percentage of cases where children become parentless, rehabilitation
measures are practically non-existent. In the USA or France, the rate of return
to the family of origin is in the order of 70%. There, as soon as a child is
removed from its parents, rehabilitation work begins with its natural family.
The authorities are decidedly in favour of restoring children to their family
of origin in contradistinction to the current situation in Russia. It would be
good if Moscow would overcome that inertia.