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In contrast to the five recent years, it’s hardly worth considering the Child Protection Day a holiday this year. Experts who couldn’t help rejoicing over reduction of the number of orphans in the country not long ago are in a bad humor now. Ukraine is said to be cutting down adoption programs in all places and in parallel to this, the number of children becoming “artificial” orphans is growing.
Experts of both Ukrainian and international organizations state that the adoption curve has been creeping down starting from 2009. If this process continues, soon we will see a steep dive in the reports. Two disasters contributed to this tendency: Mr. Azarov’s order to modernize boarding schools and the dissolution of the Ministry responsible for the issues of the family, youth affairs and sports, due to which all services in charge of the adoption issues were left in an uncertain position.
The process of creating artificial orphans
First negative tendencies in the Ukrainian adoption system appeared last summer, when the Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov inspired by his visit to some children’s homes ordered his ministers and administration heads “to revise in the State Budget 2011 the expenses for construction of a new compartment in the children’s home “Malyatko” and a new boarding school for orphans in Kiev region. To consider the issue of teaching children from poor families and children without parental care in the boarding schools intended for orphans and children without parental care starting from the September 1st, 2010. To create basic institutions for teaching gifted orphans in all regions till January 2011. To perform modernization of the material and technical basis of educational institutions for orphans and children without parental care till January 2013; to create conditions similar to the family environment for the children and to resume work of the pre-school departments in the educational institutions for orphans.” Naturally, Mr. Azarov’s desire to modernize and build what has been reduced successfully so far put both public organizations and state officials to confusion. All of them organized press conferences and wrote letters to the President. It appeared they worried for good reason.
“Modernization in itself isn’t a very dangerous tendency. But the Prime Minister’s sentence “to resume work of the pre-school departments in the boarding schools” led to adding the phrase “children from problematic families can be accepted as well” into the standards of the boarding institutions for orphans” – this explanation of the results to which led a single signature of Mr. Azarov was given to “Profile” by Lyudmila Volynets, a former Deputy Minister of the family, youth affairs and sport and a co-chairman of All-Ukrainian public organization “Children Protection Service” at present.
“Mr. Azarov said these words in July; shortly afterwards, in August, boarding school “messengers” went to different cities and villages to convince parents being in complicated life situations to send their children to boarding schools saying their children will be “dressed and fed” there. In cases of refusals they threatened the parents with deprivation of their parental rights.” Thus, according to Lyudmila Volynets, within several months all vacant places in Zaporozhye region orphanages became occupied. But, if earlier these institutions kept only orphans, at present 50% of the children come from the families going through difficult life situations. It should be added here that not long ago boarding schools lost their primary classes because all the children of these ages were adopted. Seems these classes will reappear soon.
Lyudmila Volynets calls this influx of newcomers in the boarding schools “a process of creating artificial orphans”: just imagine – a poor mother sends her child to a boarding school for orphans. I underline that it is for orphans and there’s no need to take children home for weekends. This lady lives 120 km away from the institution and she often doesn’t have enough money for the trip there and back. What next? There’s a harmless norm in the Family Code: if during 6 months parents do not take any part in the upbringing of their children they can be deprived of the parental rights. In a year and a half boarding schools will get tens of children.
More orphans – more money
This simple arithmetic makes boarding school staffs write false diagnoses in the medical records of their children and machinate in the process of adoption. “The system of delays and prolongations is created practically at each of its stages” – this is the experience shared with “Profile” by Anatoly Zabolotny, the director of the Rinat Akhmetov’s Fund called “Ukraine’s development“. A recent case: people from one part of the country came to the opposite one to get into contact with a child. They were informed that the boy went abroad for the summer and there were no possibilities to arrange a meeting at the time. So, the parents went home empty-handed and it will be rather difficult to restore their wish to come back in the future. Another serious problem is medical diagnoses. Not long ago an adoptive couple saw a girl, aged 6, at our Internet portal “Say no to orphanage!” and came to visit her. So, all possible diseases were ascribed to the girl in the boarding school. But we performed an independent examination and majority of the diagnoses were not confirmed.”
Semyon Gluzman, a member of the Public Humanitarian Council under the patronage of the Ukrainian President, also speaks about scary diagnoses set as obstacles for adoption: “Almost 90% of the children registered for adoption are diagnosed with psychiatric diseases of different extent of severity. This leads to the situation when national foster families are afraid of adopting children. Though there’s a WHO requirement not to give such diagnoses to children under the age of 3 except in extreme cases”.
Pavel and Natalia Gladchenko decided to create a foster family, submitted all the documents needed for the application and waited for a year to be called for special required courses for adoptive parents. And that is in spite of the fact that Pavel is the head of a social project called “United hope” oriented for work with orphans. According to Pavel, local officials have nothing to do with this problem: it’s the state reform that puts a brake on the process.
Lyudmila Volynets explains the processes going on inside the upper authorities: “Ministry of the family, youth affairs and sports was liquidated. The issues of youth and sport were handed over to the Ministry of Education and the family and children’s issues were simply lost”. Starting from December the 10th till April the 6th – until all the decrees about the Ministries were put into force – none of them considered family issues. Since April the 6th in accordance with the President’s decree, Ministry of the social policy is responsible for the decisions in the area of adoption and protection of children’s rights, but for today they don’t have either a structure or a staff list for this. What is happening locally? At present, the following organizations find themselves in completely uncertain positions: Service in charge of the children’s affairs responsible for official registration of adoption and guardianship; Center in charge of the family and youth affairs which is a supervisory and supporting structure attending adoptive families. They are not permitted to hire staff. In three regions Centers in charge of the family and youth affairs were completely disbanded.” Ms. Volynets is at a loss: “I do not see any logics here: with Mr. Yanukovych as the Prime Minister additional working places were assigned in the Services in charge of the children’s affairs and with Mr. Yanukovych as the President the staff there is being reduced”.
The consequence of this continuous mess is the reduction in the number of adopted children. According to Lyudmila Volynets, this year not a single child has been adopted in all 255 of the Ukrainian districts. Besides, all the children who became orphans during the year were sent to boarding schools. However, only three years ago there were just three such districts: they were districts either like Ivankiv in Chernobyl area where simply there are no children or districts where all the orphans went to the families of their relatives.
A hundred steps forward
The final comments submitted to Ukraine by the experts of the UN Committee in charge of the children’s rights comprise about a hundred issues. If a person who has never visited Ukraine reads this document, this person will think we are a barbaric country.
In the reserved style pertinent to such types of documents the UN experts write something like “we are glad you’ve passed a lot of laws and signed as many international documents but yet we are greatly concerned in…” followed by a hundred issues of their concern that require correction.
Thus, for instance, the UN Committee on the children’s rights remarks “its deep concern about the number of reports about cruel physical treatment of detained persons including children, especially during first interrogations in the police offices of the district”.
In particular, the UN concern is caused by the reported cases of tortures and cruel treatment of under age children used in police offices in order to get evidences from them. The same situation is characteristic for treating migrant children detained in the Ukrainian State Border Service. Besides, the Committee is bewildered by the information about widespread use of corporal punishment in families in spite of the fact that it is prohibited in families, schools, criminal-executive system and institutions of alternative children’s care…
UN is also greatly bewildered by the insufficient number and poor quality of the state services aimed at the protection and support to the families having children and also by the absence of monitoring and evaluation system for the effectiveness of such services.
Noting visible reduction in the number of court decrees about deprivation of parental rights during the last three years, the Committee nevertheless “feels concern about the fact that the number of cases when parents are deprived of their parental rights and children are deprived of the family environment remains on an unacceptably high level yet”
It is proposed that Ukraine should correct the issues mentioned above together with several tens of the remaining ones until the 26 September, 2018. Will we have everything right by the time?
So far different experts from home and international organizations including the experts who have talked to “Profile” show their concern: negative tendencies supporting the process of orphanage can be stopped.
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