Plight of disabled children in state homes

Human Rights Watch: Russian authorities should develop forms of family care for children and the disabled

Moscow, 15.09.2014

Human rights activists have presented a report called “Abandoned by the State: violence, neglect and isolation for children with disabilities in Russian orphanages”, in which various violations and neglect by state establishments are discussed in relation to orphans and children whose parents have lost custody.

The Human Rights Watch report was based on observations by employees of a human rights organisation representing ten foundations for orphans and abandoned children in six of Russia’s regions, as well as over 200 interviews with parents, children and young people who live, or have lived, in such foundations in two additional regions.

Almost 30% of all children with disabilities in Russia live in state-run homes, as the Human Rights Watch report highlighted. “Institutionalised children with disabilities can be subjected to unlawful treatment, and can suffer from neglect by staff, leading to serious retardation of their physical, emotional and intellectual development,” explains the report.

“The violence and neglect to which children with disabilities are subjected in these homes is shocking; it can be met only with pity and condemnation. The Russian parliament must put forward a policy of zero-tolerance with regards to violence towards institutionalised children, and it urgently needs to strengthen programmes aimed at promoting placement within families,” said Andrea Mazzarino, research fellow in the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, and author of this report.

Human rights activists reiterate that the Russian government has publically declared the necessity to refrain from institutional abuse of children, including disabled children, but “civil servants do not pay enough attention to the concrete conditions of state homes where disabled children live”. Russian authorities must work out a clear timetable for eradicating child institutionalisation, recommended Human Rights Watch: the transfer of children into state care should only be temporary, applicable in clearly defined circumstances and should address the interests of the child, as well as international human rights norms. Moreover, human rights activists emphasise that authorities should provide social support and services to parents, such that they may bring up their disabled child in a family environment.

Human Rights Watch believes that national and international donors should predict how resources should be distributed with regards to programmes aimed at the placement of institutionalised children into families, but also programmes which support the child’s integration into their local communities, through accessible schools and kindergartens, as well as health insurance provisions.

“Until the government acts, it will needlessly continue to consign these children to lifetimes within four walls, isolated from their families and communities, and robbed of the opportunities available to other children. The Russian government can do rather a lot more, to support parents bringing up disabled children, instead of herding such children into homes”, said Mazzarino.

Author: Georgii Ivanushkin

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