The way to deal with child abuse is to prevent it
This was the view expressed more than once by Russian and French child experts at a joint conference on protecting children from violence that took place on 9 November.
In 2009 the Russian guardianship agency removed 6,000 children from their families because of abuse, according to the director of the department of state policy, supplemental education and child welfare at the ministry of education and science, Alina Levitskaya. She said that it was up to those working in education to report signs that something was wrong whether within a family or in a children’s institution since it was they who were in daily contact with the children. ‘They not only can but are also duty bound to respond to direct and indirect signs that a child is troubled…this duty is laid down in federal legislation’, observed Ms Levitskaya.
She said that specialists should possess know-how in regard to preventing abuse. Thus, courses to enhance the qualifications of both employers and employees in educational institutions will be included in the national educational initiative, Our New Schools. The State Duma (Parliament) is considering a Bill prohibiting people with previous convictions of any degree of gravity from working in educational institutions with a view to preventing physical abuse outside the family setting.
Evgeny Tsymbal, director of the Ozon Centre for Psychological, Medical and Social Support, told an ASI correspondent that the federal government has at last become conscious of the need to tackle the problem of child abuse especially of a sexual nature. ‘Nevertheless’, commented Mr Tsymbal, ‘the whole range of problems involved has still not been grasped…The prohibition on those with convictions having access to educational institutions for example applies only to educationalists, even though experience shows that around half of the total number of sexual offences against pupils are committed by ancillary personnel’.
Furthermore, many parents of children who are suffering see no need for rehabilitation. ‘Everyone hopes that time will prove to be the best healer…However if psychologists and other specialists do not work with abused children, there is a high probability that such children will grow up to commit similar crimes’, observed Mr Tsymbal. He pointed out the necessity for professional attention to be given to both children suffering abuse and to minors in trouble. He said that the French practice as described at the conference offered a positive example. In that country both social services and the police were continually vigilant in cases where children were at risk.
Referring to removal of a child from the family, the expert said that in Russia, ‘Extreme measures are taken even in cases where such decisive intervention is not needed…which is at odds with the very idea of social intervention in the family. At federal government level the focus is on the extent to which the state should be ready to introduce specialists into the family to protect children’s interests…’ emphasised the director of Ozon. He considered that supervision by social services with the aim of supporting a family at risk, as envisaged by one of the Bills drawn up by the ministry of education and science, should be based not only on an agreement to be entered into with the parents but also on registration by a court or a guardianship agency. ‘The public will accept intervention by social services as an alternative to punishment’, commented Mr Tsymbal.