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Time for an afternoon catnap…but some children don’t really feel like sleeping…
Olga Kucher: “Children can be saved only by love and care”.
It is known, that about 90% of pupils from Ukrainian orphanages are social orphans who officially have parents. Such social orphans get to orphanages in different ways: some children are taken right after their birth; others come in a more self-aware age. Some children are abandoned by their parents; other children leave their home in search of a better life. The Zaporozhye Regional Shelter for children also welcomes street children as well as children from problem families. They stay for some time there. After that experts determine their life and send them to orphanages or foster families. We spoke with Olga Kucher about children’s lives in the orphanage nowadays.
- Olga, how many children are living in the shelter now?
Our shelter is for 80 people. Now we have 45 children. Kids cannot stay in the shelter more than 3 months, that’s why we have a big turnover. Since the beginning of the year we have had 368 children. The majority of them are teens aged from 12 to 16. Because of the big turnover we have permanent problems with clothes. Children often come to us in tatters. We give them clothes and they take these with them when they go to orphanages. That’s why we always lack shoes and clothes.
The children attend the school #87. Now they’re enjoying their holidays by playing outside. They all dream of having new backpacks instead of carrying packets
- How do children come into the shelter?
Children can be directed by the Juvenile Service. There were cases when we got children from the criminal police. This happens when the police start the criminal proceedings against the parents, in case of child abuse. We do not have the right to accept children who are under drug or alcohol influence or have mental disorders. However, it is not possible to determine these factors at once and it takes several days sometimes before we direct them to the hospital. And there are difficulties again, because of the treatment consent which parents must give. The problem is that it is sometimes impossible to find the child’s parents.
- How can parents be lost?
The main problems are the father’s or mother’s identification documents. Here is an example. I went to Kiev to pick up three brothers last week. Their mother is Ukrainian, their father is Russian, and the children are registered in Tajikistan. Now the parents live in Omsk (Russia). They are alcoholics. The children came to us because of their mother’s registration in Zaporozhye. The youngest brother is 7 years old. He can hardly speak, and the middle brother has also some speech problems. Both of them have a dystrophy diagnosis! All the boys have a bunch of diseases. The luckiest is the eldest. He speaks normally and is able to make conclusions. Maybe he was lucky to see his parents when they didn’t drink yet. He is 12 and he is a father and a mother for his younger brothers. It is difficult for me to understand and to judge such parents. These are such moments when it is hard to find a job, to support the family but it does not mean that you cannot find a way out.
Here is another outrageous case when we got a girl who used to live in a tree on Khortytsya Island.
There is also a 14-year-old boy who has been taken to us recently. His mother is deprived of parental rights and his grandmother is appointed to be his guardian. The child refuses to go back to his guardian though. In his written request he pointed out that she had treated him badly more than once.
This is the middle brother who together with his two older brothers was abandoned by his parents in Omsk. He has just has his lunch and now is going to have a catnap
The youngest brother is complaining of some stomachache. With his dystrophy he should keep a special diet
- Can adults be manipulated by the child in this way?
Of course, it is not excluded. Only a child’s statement that he is beaten is not enough. Now lawyers, psychologists, methodologists and the specialists of the juvenile affairs services are working with this boy. They will study all the circumstances, interview the neighbors, and the corresponding documents will be filed. Only after this the final decision will be made. Maybe the guardian was not guilty. The child didn’t want to do his homework and help about the house, so he decided to run away and to “punish” his grandmother in such a way.
But in most cases it isn’t the children’s fault. Rudeness, discourtesy, impudence - this is just a defensive reaction to the indifference of adults. Society and parents are to be blamed for it. There are many cases when children are forced to beg, to work. So they choose to live on the street. Substance abuse is not rare among homeless children. But all children can be saved.
According to the law, they can stay in our orphanage only for 3 months, but during this time we are able to achieve some results.
People often tell me – you always take the side of “problem” children and protect them too much. They are future criminals, drug addicts. I do not agree with this opinion. A child - first and foremost - is a child, and the lack of attention from adults makes him\her angry and rude. We have to convince the child that they are needed by someone, that they are loved and appreciated, and it is not necessary to do something bad to attract attention
Every child needs an individual approach. That's why I consider that the State has a correct position that provides downsizing of the orphanages. Of course, my opinion is that the best for a child is adoption, but since it is impossible to find a family for every child, we must do it in such a way that the child wouldn’t grow in the orphanages with 300-400 other children. In my opinion, the best group will be 40-50 children. Only in this case you can find an individual approach to each child and develop them as a person. But the most important - is warmth and care. Children desperately need attention. I started my work in the orphanage from a kindergarten. For me it was a discovery that the orphans differ from family children. They have a lack of love and care. Children always wanted to take my hand, hug, or just to cuddle. I often had to change my clothes, because my skirts and dresses became black from such hugs (laughing).
The child must live in a normal family. It is necessary to remember that even having money, cars and apartments, but having no love for your child at the same time, you may lose then. They can leave you any moment.
Many children have dreams, plans for their lives. And it is important to feel support in this moment. Otherwise they give up and repeat the life of their parents. There are also frequent cases of suicide. The child must feel that they are needed by someone.
We all have seen homeless children or just cases when mothers use children for begging. What must we do in such cases?
You can contact with the Juvenile Service:
+3 8 061 39-02-51 - Antonina, Natalia
+3 8 061 39-07-13 – Tatiana
I don’t give money to such mothers. Today, all families who have difficult financial situation can receive financial help from the state. Now everybody is helping – hospitals, social service organizations and charities. There are internats (orphanages) for children who have their parents in our region. A mother, who is in a difficult financial situation, can write an application and take her child to this internat on full government support. She can take her child back any time.
There are many cases when mothers give birth to a child only to get 8000 thousand hryvnyas (around 993 US dollars) from the state. After one year they try to get rid of this child. That is why there are really egregious cases. Thus, in Orekhov, one of the mothers “forgot” the baby on the balcony on a frosty day. He was fortunate to be saved. There are many such cases. The problem is that there is no monitoring mechanism for spending children's money. We need some accountability from the parents. Of course, reporting about money you spend is humiliating. But on the other hand, there is no other way to manage the situation. The process of returning children’s money and deprivation of parental rights is very difficult and it does not happen often.
Olga, what do children do in the shelter?
Like all children, they study. Seniors go to the neighbor school number 87. Younger children also have some classes there. We need to buy backpacks for them. Children don’t want to differ from other kids of their age.
At their free time, they do handicrafts. There’s a woman who volunteers and teaches our children. She brings the materials for them and they make stuff with their own hands. Children like such classes and we wish more people like her joined us.
The little shelter residents love doing handicrafts. A volunteer from Zaporozhye, an ordinary woman, teaches the orphans to create some nice things. Thanks to her assistance, every handicraft is a masterpiece
Olga Nikolaevna gave us a tour around the shelter. The rooms are nice and clean but it is obvious that the building needs repairing. This project is already financed but it is always not enough. Olga Nikolaevna has been the head only for 3 months, but she already has big plans for the future. For example, to change old beds for new ones with modern new mattresses to make sleeping for children comfortable. She also wants to change the old cupboard and buy a round table for a psychologist’s office. She wants to buy tracksuits for all the children and equipment for the gym. There are fewer than necessary bedside tables and table lamps in bedrooms – it is difficult for children to study especially in winter. The kids would like to have CD players in each bedroom.
1. Cupboards – 50 pieces
2. Tables – 4 pieces
3. Beds for younger children – 48 pieces
4. Beds for older children – 48 pieces
5. Coffee tables – 8 pieces
6. Bedside tables – 50 pieces
7. Backpacks – 20 pieces
8. Radio recorders – 5 pieces
4. Bedroom slippers for children
6. Tooth brushes, tooth paste, diapers (for 4-5 year-old kids), and sanitary pads
8. Development toys
9. Sporting equipment
10. CD and DVD disks
11. Materials for handicrafts: thread, needles, paper, scissors, cardboard, fabric, fur pieces etc.
The Zaporozhye Children’s Regional Shelter
Uzbekistanskaya Street 13,
Tel. +3 8 061 223-63-32, +3 8 0612 59 70 66, +3 8 061 223 66 93
Headmistress – Kucher Olga Nikolaevna If you want to help pupils of the shelter, you can transfer your donations to the bank account of the "Happy Child" foundation as "Charitable assistance to the Zaporozhye Children’s Regional Shelter".
Please inform the director of shelter and the charity foundation members about every donation.