Prevention of violence against children

was discussed at a meeting of the expert group on Russian best practice in the
protection of children in the Council of the Federation. The head of the
Regional Centre for Practical Psychology and Social Work “Vektor” in Perm, Vera
Kozharskaya, pointed out that the system in Russia for protecting children is
centred on families in a socially risky situation, but the potential for
rehabilitation of such families is very limited. Kozharskaya said that a more
systematic approach is needed, adopting a joined up mechanism for working in
this area, and clear standards for social work. She described a project in her
region being run jointly with the National Foundation for the Protection of
Children, in which a telephone counselling helpline for children in extreme
situations has been set up.

The meeting also considered the results of a survey by the National
Foundation. Its representative, Alexander Spivak, said that the results had
been used to design a package of recommendations on preventative services for
families and children. It drew on experience in both the government and NGO
sector, submitted by 74 regions. It was only interested in new ideas relevant
for the target groups – families with children living in difficult
circumstances, and orphans. Research will continue, so as to enhance the experience gained.

As a result of the project, more than 50 methodologies were identified,
and from these 25 actions were recommended for adoption into the child protection
system. Among them were reporting of breaches of the rights of children, ways
in which the state can provide protection to children, assessing the dangers to
children at risk of violence, and counselling for families who might reject
their new-born child, as well as a telephone helpline for children. The list of
measures also included help for families with children with health problems,
including where the child attends a boarding school for special needs children.
Spivak said that if the state is willing to fund the services proposed, it
would be good to extend them all over the country. Otherwise, after a period of
enthusiastic uptake by some organisations, efforts might peter out due to lack
of funding.

Marina Yegorova, President of the National Foundation for the Protection
of Children, commented that if at an early stage of risk, families have just occasionally
punished children physically, later this might reach a stage where they grab whatever
is to hand to hit a child with, and eventually the child might be involved in a
scene in which the violence almost reaches the level of murder. At this stage it
is very difficult for the child protection authorities to achieve cooperation
with parents, and very often the child has to be taken into care.

The chairman of the Synod Department for Charitable and Social Services
of the Orthodox Church, Marina Vasileva, spoke about the advantages of church-run
children’s homes over state-run children’s homes. She said that 40% of children
who grow up in state children’s homes end up in prison, compared with only 1%
of those who attend church-run homes. In addition, 27% who have been in church
homes gain higher education, and 25% – higher secondary education. Most of them
become professional workers. The main difference between the two types of
homes, is size: the church homes have no more than 30-60 children in them. Vasileva
said the church runs separate homes for boys and girls. She was asked a lot of
questions by the experts present, including whether the church homes violate
the rights of the children, and whether they are put under psychological
pressure in the homes?  According to a
member of the Provisional Commission of the Council of the Federation on
International Technical and Humanitarian Cooperation, V Sudarenkova, this
question was referred to a separate meeting.

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