Penal colonies better at socialisation than children’s homes

Penal colonies provide better socialisation than do children’s homes




MOSCOW: The percentage of young people who have not succeeded in adapting to life after leaving orphanages has not improved in several years. According to experts participating in the conference “The Social Dimension of Orphans in Russia”, it has become acutely necessary to search for the most effective forms of caring for orphans.


Within the framework of the Ninth Moscow-based International Conference “Orphans in Russia”, commemorating Dr F.P.Gaaz, which took place in Moscow on 17 November, directors of charitable foundations and representatives of social organisations discussed the most pressing questions concerning work with people living in, and emerging from, residential institutions.


One of the questions raised and discussed at the conference was the extent to which educational programmes were important for children deprived of parental care and, also, whether the giving of presents and the organising of festivities were effective forms of intervention in the lives of orphans. Anna Gaan, Director of the foundation “ The Arithmetic of  Doing Good” [Arifmetika dobra] was convinced that taking presents to children’s homes was indeed one of the worst practices. Alexander Gezalov, now a social activist and himself formerly a resident in a children’s home, agreed with her on this particular point. He called on volunteers to place the emphasis not on the endless organising of festive events, but on the training and socialising of the residents in orphanages.


Marina Yershova, representative of the international movement ‘In Support of Morality!’ [Za nravstvennosti!], put forward the claim that patronage, foster families and “children’s villages” were all merely a variety of forms of self-enrichment for those who took on the bringing up of orphans.Yershova affirmed that in order to root out the whole phenomenon of orphans and everything connected with them, a ‘moral’ approach needed to be adopted.


Alexander Gezalov took issue with her. In his view, the state and charitable organisations had to do everything essential so that children in residential institutions acquired families to care for them, including the provision of a variety of family arrangements. In his paper Gezalov touched on a large number of thorny problems including that of the lack of professionalism among staff working in residential institutions and, also, the absence of social, psychological and financial back-up for orphans. Anna Hofinga, leader of the ‘Prospects’ (Perspektivy) Centre for Social Development and Self-Help, gave a paper on the topic of adaptation to life after residential care. She expressed the view that, as far as the active intervention of charitable organisations in the lives of prisoners went, penal colonies had actually started to provide a better level or quality of socialisation than was currently provided by children’s homes.


The conference was jointly organised by the following bodies: the Dr Gaaz Social and Charitable Foundation, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, and the Centre for Supporting the Reform of Criminal Justice’. The conference commemorated

Dr Fyodor Petrovich Gaaz, who had actively helped backward children. It was his initiative which led to setting up a prison hospital and a school for children of people in custody.


By Katerina Nenasheva



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