NGOs call on the Russian President to reform guardianship agencies
Experts working for the “Volunteers for Help to Orphans” Foundation have submitted a plan to the Russian President to prevent social orphanhood, with special emphasis given to the interests of the child.
The plan was discussed at a meeting held on 10 December between Vladimir Putin and members of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.
The plan has been in the offing for nearly 10 years, said the Foundation’s President, Elena Alyshanskaya, to the Miloserdie.ru website. This is not a draft Bill, she explained, but a “set of proposals”. The Russian Business Consulting (RBC) Media Group has had sight of these.
The Foundation is proposing that a child should only be removed from its family when its welfare is seriously threatened by its parents. “If it is necessary to take a child away from his or her home, it’s important that they go to family relatives or close friends. If this is not possible, they should be placed in a temporary foster family rather than sent to an orphanage while work is done with the child’s natural family”, says the RBC.
Commenting on the proposals, Alyshanskaya said “The current system needs to be changed to make it more professional. It needs to learn how to recognise actual signs of violence perpetrated against a child, while also working to preserve the family as a unit when no actual crime against a child or its sexual orientation has been committed. However, we must, of course, protect and remove a child if he or she is in real danger. In such an event, it is particularly important they are entrusted to the care of family relatives or close friends so that they don’t suffer further trauma. Only if this proves impossible should a child be placed in a foster family or, in extremis, in a State institution”.
According to experts working for the Foundation, one of the proposals is to separate responsibility for helping families and identifying violations to children’s rights.
“Volunteers for Help to Orphans” are also advocating the introduction of education and training for substitute families who would work with difficult children and help them interact with their relatives if a child’s stay with a temporary family is a short one. Training would also be organised for professionals working with children who find themselves in desperate situations.
“I fully support these proposals”, Nailya Novozhilova, Head of the “Arithmetic of Good” Foundation told ASI. “Reform of the guardianship authorities is long overdue given their obvious operational flaws. As a bare minimum, the same body should not be able to have both control over and, at the same time, support families as this represents a clear conflict of interest”, she added.
According to Novozhilova, there simply aren’t enough trained professionals to work with families and children, particularly in the regions. In some places, there are as many as 100 families for each care worker! “Those who make decisions on a child’s future know virtually nothing about its mental state or his or her family history”, she said. In her view, legislation in this area should take the best interests of the child into account.