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The state and the society consciously do not give orphans any chances to adapt

January 6, 2011, 14:00 3730 Author: Interview by Georgi Skubak (Ukraine) pravoslavie.ru The problem is that orphans are not socialized. While living in an orphanage, a child does not obtain any vital skills. In an orphanage children are not permitted to iron, do laundry, wash dishes, and clean premises

Priest Andrey Pinchuk

Two students of Production-and-Training Center No. 2 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk committed suicide last year. The whole city was horrified. Less than a year passed after that terrible episode when another student of the same educational facility made a suicide attempt: Anna, one of the girls, cut her veins on March 17. Fortunately, she has been saved, but the question remains with no answer: what was it that made the students want to kill themselves?

There are almost 700 students in Dnepropetrovsk Production-and-Training Center No. 2. One third of them are orphans and disabled children. Students live in a five-storied building. Such buildings used to be called dormitories, and now they are referred to as "youth hotels". Now this facility is in the center of attention. Taking into consideration that most of the students are former residents of orphanages, experts think that the reasons for their suicide attempts are sudden change of environment and their new independent life.

Why do orphans want to end it all? What is the root of their problems? Press office of Dnepropetrovsk eparchy asked the master of family-type children's home, young clergyman of Dnepropetrovsk eparchy priest Andrey Pinchuk, who together with his wife shouldered the hardest endeavor of parental cross, to answer these and other questions. Now there are seven children in their family: apart from two children of their own, there are five adoptees.

Father Andrey, you have already gained quite an experience of parenting orphans. Can you tell what forces children, learning and living in such centers, to make suicide attempts?

– The main problem is that such children are not socialized. And the problem is not the Production-and-Training Center or any other educational facility. The issue starts up much earlier. The fact is that while living in an orphanage a child does not obtain any vital skills. In an orphanage children are not permitted to iron, do laundry, wash dishes, and clean premises; they are prohibited to have any household. It will be all considered as child labor exploitation. Besides, donors providing support to orphanages for some reason have a weird stereotype in their mind that every time when they visit an orphanage, e.g. for some holiday, they should demonstrate compassion to the orphans and shower gifts upon them. So here is the root of the problem: children living in orphanages get used to it and are sure that everyone owes them.

By the time a child grows up and leaves the orphanage, he has a certain attitude towards the world he is going to live in, and it may be described by just several phrases (I have faced it in my family as well): the first is "I don't want to do it!", the second is "I won't do it!" and the third one is "You owe it to me!" Those phrases are the ground of their mindset.

Of course, they ask themselves: "Why is it me who has no parents? Why do other children have fathers and mothers, and I do not?" And as everybody shows their compassion to them and goes fuzzy over them, those children develop a strong belief that their deprivation of parental care and family happiness will be further compensated with an increased attention towards them, excessive care and support from people around them. And as a matter of fact this does not appear to be true. Top it up with full absence of vital life skills, which they were not able to obtain while they lived in an orphanage where everything was done for them. Such children grow up to become dependents.

It looks like children brought up in orphanages are absolutely not adapted to the life in modern society?

– Right you are. Let me give a practical example. Imagine a nice orphanage, big and well-equipped, everyday meals with cost of UAH 15-20, annual trips to the seaside or even abroad, long line of sponsors and presents. How can a child feel about the things which he gets? Of course, he is pretty indifferent. E.g., he tears his boots as he wants to play football. He will be reprimanded or even criticized but tomorrow he will already have new ones. And such a child gets used to not seeing the value of the things he gets.

And what will be waiting for him after he leaves the orphanage? In some of our Production-and-Training centers there are even no light bulbs. He will face shabby walls and substandard living conditions. And nobody will give him the same meals he used to receive in the orphanage – state funding for orphans in such facilities is much lower. So the child stays face to face with this terrifying life reality. But the most terrible thing is that nobody needs him!

It is not a secret that a huge number of orphans grow up in Ukrainian boarding schools...

– I want to make myself clear: what I will now say is unofficial statistics as no one dares to sound the official data. Under different estimates, there are 110 to 160 thousand orphans in Ukraine. And again statistics (and this statistics is not very pleasant) shows that 20-60% of orphanage leavers later find themselves on the dock. Approximately 5–12% of them commit suicides. Those are just estimates, but even they are horrifying.

And the case in Dnepropetrovsk Production-and-Training Center No. 2, when three students attempted suicide, was not just a tragic coincidence. Most of children from orphanages are just not able to settle their problems and define their own life priorities. Those guys do not understand why they need to get a profession, find employment or at least keep themselves clean and maintain personal hygiene...

But why does it happen?

– They have never had any positive life experience. They have never seen normal interaction between people. Children who grew up in orphanages have no idea how a man should treat a woman, how children are to be brought up. They are not aware what a normal loving family is. In their lives they have only seen sorrows. They have seen their brother being beaten with an iron, their father raping a girl or making his children become beggars. Such children do not have any idea about educational criteria of the society. And what do we get as a result? After becoming an adult such child is not able to create a family of his own. He has not got this background, family traditions have been broken! So as a rule the children of such orphans become orphans as well. And the habit of looking at the society from the position of "you owe me" often makes orphans commit crimes. After leaving an orphanage they form gangs and become gangsters. The reason for all this is the mindset, which has been "nurtured" in them in such child facilities for orphans. Though, of course, we may not forget about genes and hereditary factor. In fact the majority of orphans in our country are social orphans, i.e. orphans whose parents are alive. Their proportion to biological orphans is approximately 90 to 10.

And there is one more problem: those children often have no place to live. Their homes have been either sold by poppies and mummies, who lost themselves into drinking, or the real estate has been stolen, or the children were just born in the street, which is often the case. Despite of the law saying that "every child after leaving an orphanage or a training school shall receive accommodation" in reality orphans have no place to go. There is almost no place in Ukraine where this provision of law is complied with! Thus, any orphan is doomed to live in the street. So now there is a "new trend" in training schools: they do not accept children who have no accommodation as after graduation the director will have to accommodate such an orphan.

But what about the government program of public welfare home construction?

– Yes, in theory there is such a method of solving this problem. But in fact the program is fiction. Homes will really be constructed but orphans will have a right to live there for just three years. Upon expiration of this term one shall purchase a flat.

But what you have just told is a real disaster for such a child!

– It is not just a disaster; it is a disastrous life shift. Just imagine: first streets and gateways, rats and drunken parents, then "polished" orphanage, and then coming back to the horrors, which those children were trying to forget for all their childhood. And it is natural that the child asks himself: "Why do I have to study? And why do I actually have to live?" They feel nobody needs them. Their parents did not need them, and now the society does not need them, investing several thousand hryvnia into each child to take it out of the vicious life just in order to send it back as soon as he or she is 18!

Those children lose social support; they do not receive minimum benefits granted by the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child that they should receive.

All this complex of reasons pushes orphans first to alcoholism, then to drug addiction, and later to gangsterism, often altogether leading to a suicide.

Probably we need to change the principles of bringing up children in orphanages?

– Of course. It is necessary to bring the element of labor and professional training to the orphanage system – and the sooner, the better. Children need to be taught to work, and not to be dependent.

Father Andrey, what is awaiting us in future if we do not reconsider our attitude to bringing up orphans?

– Orphans are a burning issue, and the society should pay attention to this issue. But we are not ready for it and what is worse we do not want to recognize that something is wrong here. We do not want to think about the future of those children. Although, of course, there are other, we may say unique, examples of orphans getting wonderful education, standing on their own feet, opening their own businesses, creating families, giving birth to children and taking care of them. But all this happens not so much due to upbringing, but due to individual qualities of such people.

Let's be honest. The state and the society consciously do not give orphans any chances to adapt to this life. Not giving them our attention, we are now bringing up a whole army of criminals, for in five or ten years those children will become part of the criminal world.

Interview by Georgi Skubak (Ukraine)

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