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Children thrown away

January 31, 2011, 13:00 5247 Author: Iryna Gavrylenko, translated by Elena Guda http://www.sich.zp.ua/ There is no “Windows of life” in Zaporozhye but there’s an alternative yet.

At the end of October again an infant was found in a dump in Zaporozhye. Luckily, this story had a happy ending. But how many cases of children’s lives cut short by the hands of their own mothers are there per one happy end of this kind? None but the police statistics can tell. Mass media prefer to speak about the miraculous cases – about those children who survive in spite of everything. “Zaporozhye Sich” set it as an aim to learn whether miracles are really necessary or something real can be done for women not to become murderesses. For instance, recently some Ukrainian cities have started to open so-called “Windows of life” at maternity hospitals and children’s hospitals. They are special windows inside behind which usually there is a cradle and a sheet. Instead of having to invent ways to get rid of their “unwanted burden” mothers are offered to put their children into such a cradle and to go away. As easy as a pie it can be said. But is there any alternative for waste buckets for “cuckoo mothers” in Zaporozhye?

No sane woman can decide to kill her child.

It’s interesting that when we started to make calls to the City Health Department and the Service on Children’s Affairs our initiative to create similar “Windows of life” in Zaporozhye was not supported. The chief argument is as follows: no sane woman will try to kill her child. If the difficulties of live have become overwhelming but the woman still has something human left inside she can always leave her child in a maternity hospital, in any other kind of hospital or an infant home (there have been cases of this kind in Zaporozhye). Well she can just leave her child at a train terminal (there was such case in Zaporozhye, too). But why kill?

Yanina Fershal, Deputy Head of the City Health Protection Management in charge of issues of maternity and childhood protection:

– “Windows of life” have become usual mainly in the western regions of Ukraine. To my mind it is connected with the religion. In those regions women consider it a great shame and sin to reject their own children. That is why special conditions are created for them to have possibilities to do it secretly.

We have a bit different mentality. To my mind it would be more effective to organize talks with the graduates in the secondary schools and to explain to them the fact that unprotected sex will most probably result in a pregnancy. To talk to them also about the legal right and possibility to make an abortion until the fetus is 12 weeks old. Delivery is the only solution for the later periods. We need to say that though it is prohibited to kill a child who is already born there is always a way out of the situation. Often, there are actually several ways out. For instance, at present Zaporozhye women do not even have to abandon their children in maternity hospitals because their children can live in the Infant House until the age of 6 and their mothers can visit them, feed them, take them for walks and take them home for weekends.

In short, different ways out always exist. I am only afraid that a woman capable of throwing her child into a waste bucket would not be influenced by a conversation of this kind. Such cases are of a different nature.

Inna Pobelena, Chief Specialist of the Children’s Affairs Service in the City Council:

– “Windows of life” have nothing to do with this. To my opinion, only not completely sane people can throw their children away for a certain death. Nowadays there are a lot of other ways to get rid of the child not killing him. One can even keep the child and request temporary help in his upbringing and support and obtain it.

I think Zaporozhye has something better than “windows” for women with children. In the Infant Home a department was opened for temporary stay of so-called “social children”. I’d like to address all the women with children not accepted by their families; those who do not have work or places to live, or maybe no money to bring up the child: Come to “Sunshine”, you will get help there. You will not be deprived of you parental rights and no one will take your children away. On the contrary the staff will try to help you and will do their best for you to keep your child”.

Galyna Galkina, Chief Physician of the Zaporozhye regional Infant Home “Sunshine”:

– Dear women, do not kill or throw away your children; we will take them and you only have to bring them to us or simply leave them with us secretly if it suits you more. You can also call the telephone number: 95–50–19. In this case we will come and take the child ourselves. (I have an intention to make this number a round-the-clock helpline for mothers with children). It is not necessary to name yourselves. You should know that you will receive assistance anyway. There are no situations with dead ends; the only request is not to endanger the lives of your children.

I’d like to say that at the beginning of this year (earlier than in other cities) in Zaporozhye we opened a department for temporary stay of children who have parents. There are situations when the mother is going to a hospital to be operated and she has no one to leave the child with; or a student from some other city gives birth to a child and has no place to live with him; sometimes a husband abandons his wife who does not have ether money or work; or let’s assume there is a disabled child and his unwed mother cannot send him to a kindergarten to find work… We are able to help such women to preserve their families and to the children to keep their families. It somehow resembles a kindergarten system but it is possible to take a child home more seldom than each day or just come for visits.

Ideally we should open a hostel for mothers with children who get into complicated life situations. We are thinking this over at present.

Sasha was saved only because he was crying loudly on the bottom of the waste bucket.

This boy named Sasha lives now in the 5th municipal hospital for more than a month, in the department for premature infants. The fact that this child has survived is an example of a miracle. The doctors say that the woman who gave him life (is it a mother?) had tried to kill him during her pregnancy but she hadn’t succeed. So upon the delivery she wrapped the small alive body in several garbage bags and through it away into a waste bucket - for a certain death. But it seems the boy has a strong guardian angel: it’s the only way to explain the fact he didn’t suffocate or died from cold. A premature child weighing a bit over a kilogram and a half was crying so loud that his voice was heard by a hospital employee through several layers of plastic and closed metallic box when she went to throw away some trash.

“The child was brought to our infection-incubator department for premature children after 4 days spent in the reanimation, – tells us Tatyana Kurochkina, the Head of this department in the 5th Municipal Multifield Hospital. – His weight was 1 kilogram 620 grams and he was presumably born during the 32nd week of pregnancy. His weight and condition could also serve as indications of a delayed internal development caused by the mother’s attempts to get rid of the child. He was sluggish with marble skin; he had bad physiological reflexes and decreased motion activity. Most of all I was worried by the fact that the boy wasn’t able to suckle for a long time, so we had to feed him through a probe. But at present everything is good. Certainly I cannot say he is completely healthy but his reflexes are restoring by and by; his motion activity keeps to the norm; he can suckle by himself and is gaining weight fairly quick. At present, Sasha weighs 3 kilograms 40 grams. This week we are going to vaccinate him against tuberculosis and prepare him for discharge to the “Sunshine” infant home.

In accordance with Tatyana Ivanovna, for a little longer than a month which has passed from Sasha’s birth day which is considered to be the 24th of October – auth. everyone in the department and in the entire hospital began to love the child very much. “When there was a report on TV some person from Chernihov region sent the child a parcel with children’s clothes, diapers and two cans of children’s food. Moreover, Sasha has a protector – a Zaporozhye inhabitant Svetlana. This woman gave birth to a very long-expected child not long ago that is why she was amazed by the fate of the long-suffering boy and decided to help him. She does not have any possibility to take the boy into her family but anyway she takes care about him as if it was her own child. Svetlana usually calls us twice a day to get information about the boy’s health; she buys him necessary medicines, clothes, special nutrition. And the icons you saw in the Sasha’s bed were also brought by Svetlana.

“The fact that the child survived being naked in the street in October and didn’t suffocate in the plastic bags is astonishing because premature children need special conditions to grow; for example the temperature in the infant incubators should be kept at the level of 33-34C. The fact that Sasha was crying loudly saved him. He cries at present, too, if something doesn’t suit him – he is a very demanding guy”, – Tatyana Kurochkina says.

“The police are now trying to find the mother or some relatives of this child. If they are not found then within 2 months the authorities of care and guardianship will give the boy a name and a surname and issue him a birth certificate. He will be given a status of not having parental care. After this the boy will be discharged to the Infant Home”, – informed us over the phone Inna Pobelena, Chief Specialist of the Children’s Affairs Service in the City Council.

This year there already have been women who abandoned their children right after their birth.

In accordance with the information provided by the Children’s Affairs Service in the City Council, during this year 43 messages were got from the Zaporozhye maternity hospitals about the women’s intentions to abandon their newborns. “A soon as we get a message of this kind the staff of the Social Service Center for the family, children and youth go to the place to have a talk with such women performing a function of so-called “ambulance”. This year 4 women managed to leave maternity hospitals without permissions before the social service staff came there. They didn’t leave any reliable information about themselves. Nine women changed their intentions and decided to keep their children in the families after the conversations with psychologists”, – says Nataliya Syvoraksha, the head of the service in charge of the children’s affairs.

From the beginning of the year 29 newborn children abandoned in the maternity hospitals have been brought to the “Sunshine”. At present they live here and wait for families ready to take them for upbringing.

“Adoption is not an easy legal process, – says Galina Galkina, Chief Physician of the Zaporozhye regional Infant Home, – in accordance with the Family Code, two months after the child if born he can obtain a status as having no parental care and can be adopted. But often this process is prolonged for a year or even a year and a half. However, I think the main thing that should be communicated to the mothers in the maternity hospitals is that they can lose their child forever in two months after they abandon it, because it happens women change their minds when it is already too late.

When I was looking close at the faces of the children smiling in the hands of the infant home’s personnel my heart was sinking because they were in the state of happy ignorance about the fact that they were betrayed the moment they appeared in the world. Luckily, these little ones survived and now they may make happy some women who are not able to have children of their own.

A commentary from Galina Galkina, Chief Physician of the rehabilitation home “Sunshine”

A commentary from Albert Pavlov, Director of the “Happy Child” foundation:

It’s evident that there are situations when temporary stay of children in an infant home or in a boarding school can be the only way out. It’s for instance when the mother has to stay with another child in the hospital; when she is in a confinement institution or she is sick and is not able to take care of her child for some time.

In such critical situations the child’s parents or foster parents should contact social workers of the social service center and the specialists on the children’s affairs to get help. The main task of the social workers is to return the child to the native family even if this child has to stay in an infant home for some time.

In other words, social services should apply maximum efforts and do their best for the parents to become able to take their children back to the families as soon as possible.

Besides, for us there are alternative variants to help families in difficult situations beside sending their children to the infant homes: for instance, to talk to the closest relatives, to pay for a nurse or a housewife services, to provide psychological support or to send the child to a temporary foster home. All these variants are much cheaper than full state provision.

If the work with the biological family is conducted by the staff of the infant homes than the conflict of interests is evident: it’s because the financing of the infant homes and the number of their personnel depend on the number of their inmates.

A similar situation is observed for the boarding schools for children older than 7 years of age. Majority of these institutions in Zaporozhye region have made changes in their statutes and they are able now to accept not only orphans but children from poor families and large families having many children.

In addition, managers of some boarding schools do not conceal the fact they organize special “raids” through villages proposing poor families to send their children to their institutions. Such children can come home either for weekends or each day after classes but in reality many children become orphans after such parental decision is made because even during weekends these parents never hurry to take their children home.

Thus, in the effort to preserve the obsolete boarding school system abandoned by the majority of the developed countries our state prefers to bring up children in the boarding schools spending from 3 through 10 thousand UAH per month for each child. As a result the children lose their possibility to live in a family atmosphere and to become full-valued members of the society; to obtain necessary practice of living in a family.

We intend to continue our investigation of this issue and to take maximum efforts to make our state work for the children and not for the boarding school staffs.

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