76% of children in care institutions in Russia are not orphans
Improvements to the system of preventing the occurrence of ‘social orphans’ was under discussion at a meeting of the Russian government’s Council for Social Guardianship. In Russia 57% of children who are in children’s homes are there because their parents have been deprived of parental rights or have had them limited. Only 24% are actual orphans. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova informed the meeting of this. She said that it was obvious that one cause of social orphans was inadequate or late social intervention to support parents, as well as a lack of preventative work with families. According to Elena Alshanskaya, President of the Foundation “Volunteer Help for Orphaned Children”, over the past 15 years there has been almost no change in preventative work with families. After parents are deprived of their parental rights only 5% are able to get the decision rescinded. 36% of children living in children’s homes are there because their parents are poor. She also said that Russian legislation still fails to define the concept of “interests of the child”. Everywhere in the world the main priority is to keep children in their own families. In Russia children are taken away from loving but impoverished families or else it is decided to leave them in these families even though they are systematically subjected to physical or psychological trauma.
The main thing, said Alshanskaya, is for the child to maintain close contact with adult relatives and to stay in their own family. But this is rarely taken into account. Social services look at living conditions, behavioural control, but not at this factor. But at the same time children are not protected against violence. There is no mechanism to make a proper professional judgement about such matters.
Duma member Olga Batalina said that removing children from their parents should only be done in extreme cases, and this should be written into the Family Code. “Our aim is to maintain guardianship by the parents when crisis situations arise in families. Our laws don’t specify exactly when it is necessary to remove a child or to limit parental access. Parental rights should be restricted before moves are made to remove these rights entirely.” She also said that it is totally wrong to isolate a child from its family, as this makes it difficult later to re-establish and strengthen the family. “At present the period of removal of the child from the family is six months, which can be extended. That is wrong. The period should depend on the circumstances which necessitated the child’s removal. As soon as these are dealt with, the child should be returned. And at the same time the parents should be guaranteed state support – legal, social and medical.