Research on orphans leaving Russian children’s homes
This research has been conducted by the Higher School of Economics (HSE) at the initiative of the “Way together” charity. According to the research organisers, this study will help provide reliable information on the prospects for orphans leaving children’s institutions in Russia and inform recommendations for improving their professional and socio-psychological adaptation.
Specialists from the HSE carried out more than 50 interviews with experts who work with orphans leaving children’s institutions in the Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk and Tver oblasts, as well as in Moscow and St Petersburg. The researchers analysed the image of orphaned children as portrayed in the media, social networks and professional blogs, as well as studying the regional legislative framework and listening to the views of local administrators.
The results from the experts’ survey revealed that indicators of successful adaptation of orphans leaving children’s institutions can be attributed to them gaining a profession and access to education, stable employment, strong family relationships and having children. According to experts, the main problems faced by orphans from children’s institutions are an inability to manage their personal finances effectively, a lack of experience in taking responsibility and being self-reliant, and having been used to being overprotected over a period of time.
“Above all, children live in fear of rejection and have the impression they are not like everyone else. They worry about injustice and feel the world will not always be kind to them. They are concerned for their future and often lack motivation, while at the same adopting the consumers’ view that they should have it all”, said Alexandra Telitsyna, Executive Director of the “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” charity.
NGOs play a significant role in the adaptation of orphans leaving children’s institutions in that they provide training courses in domestic self-sufficiency, financial matters and communication skills. These can take the form of cookery classes, workshops and individual advice sessions.
“We were surprised at just how well informed orphans leaving children’s institutions were about their rights and what they can achieve when on the outside. However, the problem is that such awareness is rarely backed up by appropriate levels of socialisation to help take advantage of opportunities. This is often linked to the way in which decisions on issues such as the provision of housing and employment are taken at regional level and the stereotypical attitudes that exist as regards their future education and career paths”, said the research’s leader, Roman Abramov.
According to researchers, the importance of post-institutional support as a means of helping prevent asocial behaviour is the least developed in terms of legislative underpinning. Children need psychological help to adapt not only in the orphanage but once they’ve left that institution, Abramov added. They are socially passive and used to being in a controlled environment which requires the introduction of a mentoring programme to help orphans deal with everyday problems. For example, the “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” charity identifies mentors who can teach youngsters how to look for work and protect themselves against unscrupulous employers. Such help really motivates orphanage pupils, said a charity representative.
Experts have also expressed concern that orphans leaving children’s institutions in future could find themselves in ghettos, given that flats may well be allocated in the same area and in the same block.
Experts stressed the importance of the role of the business sector in orphan adaptation and that it should focus not only on financial and corporate volunteer help but also pursue a systematic policy for involving orphanage pupils in the professional community and in arranging work placements. This is particularly important for the regions, many of which have orphanages that are situated in rural areas with a limited jobs’ market.
To date, few companies have broken out of the “vicious circle” of gifts for orphans, said Mikhail Pimenov, Director of the “Family” charity. In his view, business should institute a working regime that involves children homes’ staff. A number of companies have already gone down this route including “Yam Restorants Rasha” which organises educational social adaptation games in 17 different regions.
The study also identified a polarisation in attitudes in the regional media about orphans who leave children’s institutions. The media either portray an idealised picture of a person who’s fully integrated within society or speak in terms of social outcasts who are at risk.
The researchers concluded that it was necessary to combine the efforts of experts who deal with problems associated with social adaptation of orphans in order to draw up a framework for monitoring work being done in this area. Such collaboration could lead to a series of actions involving representatives from the business sector and Government agencies.
Author: Olga Vorobeva