REGIONAL NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION FOR PROTECTION OF CHILDREN´S RIGHTS
Orphans, Violence in the Family, Homeless children, Handicapped children, Children-Prisoners
11, Novyi Arbat str., 19 floor , suite 1918, 1920, Moscow, 119019, RUSSIA ph. (7-095)291-5872, ph./fax (7-095) 291-9176
The Orphanhood prevention work and protection of rights of orphans must be inseparable Written Presentation to the IAC Symposium “On New Tools for Understanding and Enforcing the Human Rights of Orphaned and Abandoned Children”
October 20-22, 2004, Atlanta, USA
Ladies & Gentlemen!
I am deeply indebted and grateful to the International Advocates for Children for an honor to be a member of the Organizing Committee of this Symposium and for the possibility to address to the Symposium. I also deeply regret that for the personal reasons of the last moment I could not come to the Symposium. This Written Presentation summarizes the views and ideas which I planned to tell to the honorable participants of the Symposium. I shall speak about Russia, but historical challenge which Russia meets today is also the challenge for many countries all over the world. And two basic problems which must be resolved as soon as possible (the proposed ways to resolve these problems I´ll discuss in the bulk of the Report) are also the problems of many countries including United States of America. Those problems are:
To decrease “flow of orphans” from the population, i.e. to create the effectively working social system of preservation, solidification and reunification of biological families – of course the child´s best interests must not be a sacrifice in reaching these goals.
To develop effective system of the in-country adoption and other forms of the permanent family care of orphaned children.
On the formal level these two problems are seemingly essentially disconnected, in many countries including Russia they are even responsibility of different State agencies or departments with separate budgets. I shall try to show below – and this is the main message of my Report – that in case we really want to help our vulnerable children (present or future orphans) we MUST consider these two problems as two sides of one and the same medal called “Because every child needs a family”. This is the motto of our friendly American non-governmental organization “Kidsave International” which we work together since 1999 in promotion of reforms aimed at deinstitutionalization of orphans in Russia. The load however is a heavy one.
Statistical preliminaries about Russia
The topic of the Symposium is extremely timely and urgent, in connection with the events in Russia in particular. About 130 thousands of new orphans are revealed in Russia annually, from them 95% are so called “social orphans” (children whose parents are alive but were deprived of their parental rights by the Court or abandoned their kids in maternity houses). There is no war or post-war times in Russia nowadays, however total number of orphaned children – 740 thousands – already exceeds their number after the Second World War. This number increases approximately by 20 thousands per year, which is especially troublesome in view of the annual decrease of children (“child” is a citizen below the age of majority - 18 years) population of Russia by 1 million per year during last 8 years. (At present there are 30 million children in Russia which is 21% of the population of the country). In more detail about situation in Russia one can read in particular in the Alternative Reports to the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child (1999) and to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2003); these reports were prepared by Coalitions of Russian NGOs formed under umbrella of the “Right of the Child”.
Different forms of care of orphaned children in Russia.
225 thousands, i.e. 30%, of Russian orphaned children are permanent inmates of children institutions (this figure increases by 3-5 thousands per year); 50% are living in so called guardianship families (overwhelmingly in the families of close relatives – aunts, uncles, grandparents…, where guardianship parents receive the State monthly financial support for maintenance of the child); 20% from 740 thousands orphans are adopted – in Russia and abroad. There are also other forms of substitute permanent family care of orphans – foster family (6500 kids, this form is mostly developed only in Samara Region; contrary to the guardianship parent the foster parent is considered a State employee with small salary in addition to money given for the child´s maintenance), Children Homes of Family Type (actually – small institutions, practically undeveloped, 400 inmates in all Russia), and new form established by the laws of several Russian regions – so called “patronage family”, I´ll speak about this important form of family care below.
Financial background of the institutionalization of children in Russia.
Average monthly cost of care of one inmate of Children institution in Moscow is 21 thousands rubles (700 USD), the same averaged over all country is twice less – 10 thousands rubles (350 USD) per month, per child. (These figures include of course not only direct maintenance of the child but also the cost of staff, cost of canteen etc., the rent of building and its current repair. The enormous cost of capital repair of the Orphanage or building of new Orphanages are not included). Comparatively the payment to guardianship or foster parents is 4-5 times less (about 4500 rubles in Moscow and 2000 rubles averaged over the country per month per child).
Paradoxically this extremely high cost of institutionalization of orphans is perhaps the main factor stabilizing institutional system. – There are many experiments in Russian regions of developing family placement of inmates of Children institutions, but the number of inmates of given institution included in the experiment practically never exceeds the limit threatening the very existence of the institution. And not only staff and Director of the Institution are afraid of its closer, their chiefs from the departments where institutions belong also are not interested in the reform which will result in essential reduction of budget of the department.
That is why we always repeat that to reach real deinstitutionalization of orphans in Russia demands the top level political will. And we work in this direction, we permanently try to find one and another, and one more ways to trigger this will – at the federal level and at the level of separate Russian regions. This is really creative human rights work, fortunately well know to me personally because of my more than 30 years participation in human rights movement – in the Former USSR and then in Russia.
In the year 2003 7000 orphans were adopted in Russia by alien adoptive parents, 7200 orphans were adopted abroad. At the recent Hearings in State Duma (Lower Chamber of Russian Parliament) I said to the audience: “We never “fight” against foreign adoption, we are grateful to foreign adopters who really save Russian children from the harmful institutionalization. The problem and horror of the situation is in the shamefully low level of in-Russian adoption which is equal to the foreign one. And I ask ‘Why 7 thousands, why not 70 thousands per year?´“. Then I said certain proposals outlined in the next Item of this Report. And in this Item dedicated to international adoption I feel morally obliged now to tell most harsh words.
Leo Tolstoi said “Patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels” (he meant Russian xenophobic ‘patriots´-anti-Semites and this sort of dirty public). Today in Russia (like in some other countries) foreign adoption is attacked by such ‘patriots´, among them many top politicians and high-rank position personalities. They waste all their energy to the struggle with “selling our kids abroad”, and they are absolutely incapable to concentrate, to contemplate upon improving of life of children in Russia. The most ‘thrilling´ accusation they use in their attacks is the accusation in use of foreign adoption for children´s organ trafficking. 1,5 years ago I participated in the Federal TV Program where one of participants, MP, repeated these accusations. And she was immediately answered back by TV Presenter who said that they specially inquired Interpol if there are known such a terrible facts, and Interpol clarified that there is NOT A SINGLE CASE of this sort of use of adoption known to Interpol in all the world. I know that internet is full of such an accusations and opinions. I am not surprised when Israel is named in this context on the internet-sites where Ben-Laden is smiling to you. Much more troubling is when governmental structures become involved in it – like recently the Government of Romania with regards to adoption to Israel.
Two years ago at the Session of Russian Government Deputy Minister of Interior also said that foreign adoption from Russia is used for children´s organ trafficking. He was immediately inquired with indignation by the Minister of Education of Russia who asked: “Please name us ONE case of this sort”. Deputy Minister of Interior could not answer this question. Of course I believe that we all agree that foreign adoption, like any other decision or process determining child´s life, must be fulfilled strictly according to the established rules and laws. The next day after Vladimir Putin was first time elected the President of Russia in the end of March 2000 he signed the most important Decrees which put an end to certain legal chaos in foreign and domestic adoption in Russia. Now there are working about 80 foreign adoption agencies in Russia, all of them are officially registered and accredited, the work of all of them is transparent. And I must finalize this Item with words of Director of Baby Home from Republic of Altai (Siberia) which she said at the Hearings in The Council of Federation (Upper Chamber of Russian Parliament) on 14 October 2004: “Foreigners, most of them Americans, often adopt our kids, even strongly disabled ones. We are in permanent contact with these families, some of them even come again later to adopt one more child, and they bring with themselves children adopted 2 or 3 years earlier. And it is real joy to see absolutely normal child instead of strongly disabled and “mentally retarded” one who had no life perspective in Russia”.
Developing of in-country adoption and other forms of permanent family care
My question “Why 7 thousands, why not 70 thousands per year?” (see in the beginning of previous Item) may be referred not only to Russia but say to the USA as well. As to my knowledge there are 120 thousands kids legally opened for adoption in United States which are very rarely adopted by citizens of the USA; Americans prefer more expensive but more reliable and easy adoption from abroad. Why? Is not it full nonsense? American friends explained us that the reason of such a situation is in huge bureaucratic barriers to the American in-country adoption and in its strong “unprotectedness”: even after child´s 3 years life in adoptive family the Court may decide to return the child to his/her biological mother in case she stopped temporarily to use alcohol or drugs and applied to return the child. I hope we all understand that such a “return” is most inhuman and not in the best interests of a child. Thus American system of the in-country adoption is not user-friendly and it needs essential reforming and improvement (we were said that such reforms are now at hand in the USA).
The same is true about Russia. The Russian system of in-country adoption is not user-friendly. The only authorities whose duty is to assist to Russian adopters are rather week and over-occupied with plenty other duties guardianship bodies (very often represented by ONE specialists for huge district). Also there are no social benefits for adopters and adopted child is deprived of social benefits given by the Law to orphaned children. We consider it unfair and not too clever. Notorious secrecy of adoption is also one of the essential barriers for popularization of ideas of adoption among Russian population.
There are serious problems in distributing information about orphaned children open for adoption (there are 150 thousands of these children in the federal and regional Banks of Data of Children Deprived of Parental Care). Russian Federal Law established in the year 2002 the most important notion of “Deliverable Information” – this is information permitted for any publications (in paper, on radio and TV, in internet) about child open for adoption which does not permit to identify child´s personality but which is useful for potential adopters to make the choice of child they would like to adopt (deliverable information includes the photo of the child, medical information, gender, age etc.). Our friendly Moscow NGO “Shelter of Childhood” (www.innewfamily.ru) received a year ago the permission of the Ministry of Education of Russia to place at its Web-site deliverable information about 120 kids from the Federal Bank of Data. Most of them were children with serious deceases; the real miracle was that half of these kids were adopted by Russian adopters thanks to this information-initiative. This refuted the myth that Russians do not want to adopt disabled children. The truth is that nobody on a wide scale address to Russians purposefully with this idea.
We see now following four basic directions of work targeted to create user-friendly in-country adoption system in Russia:
To place in the internet the deliverable information about all 150 thousands of Russian kids open for adoption. (We know that this sort of non-governmental initiative is now developed in the USA). To realize this goal it is necessary: (1) To raise necessary money (not a huge sum) to fulfill the job; (2) to overcome the nasty resistance of “patriotic” authorities who crazily insist that placing this deliverable information in internet will permit foreign agencies to “sell our children abroad”.
To amend federal laws with a goal to provide social benefits to adopted children and to adoptive parents.
To amend federal laws with a goal to strengthen guardianship authorities (which are responsible for adoption) with so called Authorized Institutions. This reform is inseparable from legislative establishment of patronage family care and social “family patronage” of families at risk, which may be the practical tool to unite organizationally “two sides of a medal” (which I spoke about above) – orphanhood prevention work and developing of permanent family care of orphans.
To develop Short-stay programs as a tool for creating psychological attachment and hence the permanent family placement of the institutionalized children. These programs are strongly advocated and realized in Russia by American NGO “Kidsave International Inc.” which we cooperate fruitfully.
Patronage family care, social family patronage and creation of complex system of realization of child´s right for the family
During 10 years famous Moscow Orphanage # 19 (Director Mariya Ternovskaya) implement in Russia the England system of “partial” family placement of vulnerable children called “patronage family care”. This experiment is strongly supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia which drafted the Amendments and Additions to the Family Code of Russian Federation aimed at legislative establishing in the federal law of patronage family care and social family patronage. Meanwhile a number of Russian regions already adopted the regional laws “On Patronage” and began to implement this promising system.
Patronage family is a form of family care of orphans when child formally remains an inmate of the Children Institution but physically lives in the patronage family. Patronage parents are considered members of staff of the Children Institution with special “home work” duty – to provide family care to the inmate of the institution. Their rights and duties are outlined in the special Agreement on Patronage Family Care. There are Long-term patronage family care and Short-term patronage family care.
The Long-term patronage family care is a form of permanent family placement of orphaned children – inmates of Children Institution. We realize very well that this form of family care is “less family” than adoptive family or even foster family. But we also realize very well that there are more than 100 thousands of inmates of Russian Children Institutions of the age above 8-10 years who WILL NEVER be adopted, taken to guardianship or foster families because there are practically no such parents who will be bold enough to take the full responsibility for the child of this age. Establishing of the Long-term patronage family care with “distributed responsibility for the child” between Institution and patronage parents is perhaps the only chance to save these children from dreadful consequences of harmful institutionalization. Also patronage parents are given priority in case they want to adopt the child – “inmate” of their family.
The Short-term patronage family care is a part of social work and is used for non-orphaned children temporary taken from their biological parents for the period of rehabilitation of biological family. This form supposes the “distributed responsibility for the child” between biological parents, patronage parent and institution which is responsible for organization of all the social rehabilitation work
Family patronage – is just a social work aimed at protection of rights of child still living in “family at socially-dangerous situation” (definition from the Russian Federal Law). If child in his/her best interests is taken temporary from his parents to the short-term patronage parents, then the work on family patronage of his/her biological parents aimed at reunification of biological family is also actively continued. If child is not taken from the biological family – then establishing of family patronage also means that part of responsibility for the child is taken from “irresponsible” biological parents to the social institution working for solidification of the family.
We know that in the USA, like in Russia, the social system of protection of rights of children preferably works for isolation of the child from his/her “bad” parents (which in many cases is absolutely necessary) and is not as strong in restoration and reunification of biological families. Thus system itself produces orphans, stimulates the “flow of orphans” from population.
Social Authorized Institutions which duties are to carry out family patronage of families at risk on one hand and to promote permanent family placement of orphans (from patronage family to adoption) – on the other hand hopefully may prove to be the effective organizational tool of realization of every child´s universal right for family.
October 19, 2004