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Usual children, but with special needs
Every year more and more children are being born, who are physically or mentally imperfect. Very often parents reject this kind of children. As a result they are doomed to move from one orphanage to another. Education, good job, loving family is inaccessible luxury for them.
Are children different?
Last Friday in many schools of Zaporozhye and the area there were celebratory concerts. That was the celebration of the Teachers’ Day. There was also such celebration at the Zaporozhye boarding school for mentally retarded boys. Children sang songs, danced, played piano, recited poems about the importance of teachers’ trade. When people smiled to them or praised them, their eyes shone with joy. It was painful to watch, how a 14-year-old Serezha has burst out crying, because he couldn’t remember the last two lines of the poem, he recited. And a 6-year-old Sasha with a Down syndrome kept making the audience laugh, sticking out the tongue and teasing his teachers. After the concert the boys had fellowship with the guests. They tried to take them by a hand, asking if they liked the concert.
Not only smart need to be loved
There are 111 children in Zaporozhye boarding school today. Totally in Zaporozhye region there are more than two thousand children with various psychoneurological problems. Most of them are orphans, though sometimes with live parents. The last reject "ugly" and "stupid" children at their birth. Therefore they are doomed to live in different orphanages. First they live in children's orphanages. After they turn 18 they are moved to a youth group (until they turn 36). And then they are moved to a geriatric department (old people’s home).
In the opinion of the leadership of the regional and city orphanages children have good life there. Oksana Taran, the psychologist of the Kirov department for mentally retarded children speaking: “We have no problems with health care, education and support of the children at the orphanage. The State helps some. Though we still don’t have a therapeutic physical training room and a rehabilitation room. But we hope to find good sponsors, who will invest into the health of the children”. Yelena Likholet, the deputy director of the Zaporozhye boarding school thinks that they need to have other sources of financing, besides governmental. “We have one pair of socks per one child in three months! - Elena Viktorovna complains, - that’s why the nurses have to patch clothes for the children. Some staff members bring things from home. But in general the situation is normal”.
Meanwhile, the staff members of the «Happy child» foundation consider, that there are many more problems, than you can hear from orphanages’ staff. The director of the charitable foundation “Happy Child” Albert Pavlov, speaking: “Though the outward appearance and material condition of psychoneurological orphanages improved a little bit lately, the life quality of children with special needs is not up to the European level. For example, the staff members and the volunteers of our foundation quite often face the fact, that children who cannot walk are not provided with wheelchairs or their wheelchairs are of improper size or broken. For several months our foundation is drawing the attention of the orphanage’s leadership to this problem, meanwhile children continue to grabble on the floor or on the asphalt. It is astonishing that often they have new wheelchairs in a storage, but for some reasons they are not in a hurry to give them out».
There are also grounds to doubt the quality of the medical care. According to Albert Pavlov, the checkups of children are formal, doctors do not put maximum efforts in order to help these children. In some orphanages they don’t have pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists on staff. And it is impossible to provide decent medical care without them. For example, in one of the orphanages children didn’t have dental checkups and treatment for years. Besides local dentists don’t know how to deal with dental problems in children with cerebral paralysis or Down’s syndrome. But when reporters or inspection come leadership of orphanages may boast about new dental equipment, rehabilitation or exercise therapy rooms, which are not used actually.
Taking into consideration that most of similar orphanages are located in remote rural areas, one cannot expect high-quality medical care there. For many seriously sick children this fact can be fatal.
According to international standards, children with serious psycho-neurological problems should be dealt with in small groups. But quite often there are 27 children in one group and only two exhausted nurses try to take care of all these children. Obviously that they barely have time to change pampers and to feed children. Nobody even thinks of rehabilitation in such cases.
The problem of personnel shortage is confirmed by Vladimir Ushakov, the person, responsible for orphanages in the Central Regional Administration of labor and social defense of population in Zaporozhye region:
- Today the main problem of the orphanages for children with special needs is a lack of qualified personnel. In former times it was required to provide this kind of children with food, clothes and warm place to live. Today it is also required to do rehabilitation. But we have neither specialists nor methods for this. We can solve this problem in Zaporozhye. But it is unreal to find a doctor, who would agree to work in a remote rural area.
Today we have also problems with providing education for this kind of children. The Ministry of education for several years has been promising to develop a special educational program for mentally retarded children, but we have none so far. They use an educational program for preschoolers (some specialists think, this kind of children are not capable to do more than that). Also according to the labor legislation the State must provide their right to work. But this right is ignored. Employers do not want to undertake responsibility for a sick person. It turns out that from the very birth till death handicapped people live, as plants. Our society unfortunately doesn’t provide other alternatives for them.
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Publications made by Happy Child, Ukraine Kirovo orphanage (boarding school, internat) for girls with mental retardness Publication from mass-media and TV