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“Zerkalo Nedeli” newspaper: reforming: silent wars of the orphan’s homes

October 8, 2010, 12:00 2758 Author: Victoria Sorokopud www.zn.ua Author of the article try to generalize situation with deinstitutionalization in our country, though according the most optimistic projections, this process, that just beginning to develop in Ukraine, will not be over until 2017

Festive fanfare ceased, motley balloons blew off, happy smiles disappeared – International Children Day, which was celebrated only 1st June, has been over well. Directors of orphan’s establishments, state officers and media representatives have relaxed after informational race: statistic has been put, stories have been told and now everything came back to humdrum – silent war for reorganization of the Ukrainian orphan’s establishments.

We remind of, that according with State program of reforming of establishments for orphans and children without parents’ guardianship system Conception, Ukrainian deinstitutionalization should go through four phases. The first of them is connected with studying of assigned issue, the second one is connected with improvement of standard-legal branch and development of children resettlement plan. Only during the third phase children will start their long-awaited movement into new-built establishments. During the last, fourth phase, state is planning to reorganize and change the specialty of the rest of buildings (about 600), which will be left after boarding school system, to decide questions with cabinets, areas and land – in general, to finish reforming.

But it is not easy to change the old order. Today we attempt to generalize situation with deinstitutionalization in our country, though according the most optimistic projections, this process, that just beginning to develop in Ukraine, will not be over until 2017.

As of today the key to understand new type establishment is phrase “it should be different from” in everything – from architecture till educational moments. Now, in accordance with age principle, orphan children and children without parent’s guardianship should go through the house of the baby, children’s home, orphan’s establishments, which have their own atmosphere, but it is so unnatural, that neither Vanya nor Masha can get proper understanding of their sex features.

Reform provides for, that now any interdepartmental children’s resettlement will be done only with taking into account child’s ties of relationship and place of birth. If now brothers-sisters of different ages are in different orphanages, like golf balls, but reforming promises that children from one family will grow together till majority.

Conception says clear that conditions of children’s living in establishments of new type should be highest possible approximateв to family life conditions. What does it mean? First of all limitation of general children's home inmates number is no more than 50. Secondly, care for them should become personalized one. Individual needs and previous experience of every teenager and child a priori should become foundation for new state home.

Besides, for the first time orphans and children without parents’ guardianship begin to visit secondary school – their educational level should not be lower than their peers, and the range of interests not to limit itself to micro environment. In the first place they will send babies till seven, children, who got in such place first time, and also who had been staying in health care establishments for a long time according their social characteristics, into the establishments of new type. To the point, in this silent and invisible for usual people reformatory war the issue of subordination does not take the last name. We remind that today one part of institutions is accountable to Ministry of Public Health, the second one to Ministry of Family, the third one to Ministry of Labor. Three different institutions deal with children in three different ways.

Please show consequences!

During last 50 years all different experts state, that the most children from boarding schools retard in physical, emotional, psychological and social development. So break stereotypes, change destructive cliche. In Ukraine they know these facts by 103 thousand of orphans and children without parents’ guardianship, but system still works well. Officers truly say that the number of orphans in boarding schools is decreased from year to year, but if we look at general numbers of children in this hydraulic aquarium, we’ll see, that it is stable in fact. Every year number of “state inmates” is not filled up so much by biological orphans, as by children from dysfunctional families or what happened more often, by having asocial mother. Who is and how does help them?

Unfortunately, Ukrainian legislation focuses on the struggle with consequences only. Look into it according to fact. Earlier in European countries mechanism of help was switched only when consequences of family drama became public one, but now their main forces and tools are spent for preventive and even pre-traumatic. Many years ago our close and distant neighbors have understood that, it is easier to lend a hand one person on the brink of a precipice, than to get the whole family from the trouble. Unfortunately, there are no specially developed programs of help for addicted to drink and drugs or for parents are in difficult life situations. So now we reap the fruits of hundreds of thousands little tragedies.

“It is not enough to present orphanhood in numbers. It should be shown in feelings, psychology of a child, in his world-view, - told Lyudmila Volynec, the director of State adoption and children’s protection department during master class “Reforming of boarding schools: can it be in Ukraine?”, which was organized in the end of May for mass media by fund “Development of Ukraine”. Already seventeen years our society is in idea of psychological relationship materialization and thinks, that if in orphan establishments child is fed, clad and shod, if there is laminated flooring board or carpet better than at home, but is that children need only? They don’t have the most important thing is a feeling, that somebody needs them. Earlier orphanhood was one big black cloud, but now for studying this phenomenon we should understand, that 103 thousand orphan-children and children without parents’ guardianship, this is 103 thousand destinies, any one of which should be separately considered. There are children, which have already become orphans after birth, in these thousands. There are also children, which have become orphans in 13-14 years. Is there difference if mother have died when the child was 13, but before that he/she had lived in normal family or if mother was unparented, when child was 13, because nobody saw her sober during last eight years? Orphans and children without parents’ guardianship is an initial problem from problem of parents. This is only consequence. And for decreasing their number we should reduce level of criminal, death rate, raise the spirituality, and have an influence on the today’s alcoholization of population. In any other case the desire to decrease them will be a fancy.

“…We cry about destiny of these children, but we suspect any adult person, who tries to help them, of self-interest. The main apologists of orphan’s establishments now are people, who have grown in this system as far back as Soviet time. It is hard to change their opinion. They say orphanage saved them. But in that time children did not get into orphanages from streets and went into the streets, as it happens now. The other apologists are the worker of establishments, who afraid to lose their job.”

“Now 180 my colleagues and I are kamikazes…”

Today we are officially in the first phase – legislators of our country try to prepare the highest possible adequate to Ukrainian realities regulatory acts and to improve all legal tools for children’s movement. Only one issue of proper building and land, which will be free after deinstitutionalization, using needs Solomonic decision. Reforming should not turn them into golf-clubs and fitness-studios. According to experts, there is a shortage of preschool institutions in every Ukrainian region. That is why now the officials think how to increase its number. That is what happens officially. But actually the staff of local establishments works in atmosphere of higher anxiety, because superior bodies don’t directions concerning how everything should go. Directors of orphans’ establishments have not got clear message how this reform would be conducted. But people know that new type establishments will not be staffed with old staff, just because they fed and gave to drink to “state children” for decades. There is written in Conception, that employees of the house of the baby, children’s home, orphan’s establishments should have training and proper teaching, and according results of that could be take on “new family”.

Besides, in view of still-falling per sent of orphans’ establishments filling in Ukraine their heads afraid, that any day now control and revision office visit them and looking at staff-children ratio, will collapse. If earlier one educator was in charge of 20 children, for example, now one is in charge of 10… There is excess staff. What have to be done? We should think. For instance, recently chief physicians of the houses of baby appeal to Ministry of Health with offer to make changes in “Child care centers model regulations” or create such statutory acts, which would permit people to work with no worry in this transition period. There are existed a lot of families, where disabled children are brought up and need qualitative rehabilitation help, - child care centers specialists can and want to work with them. “It is absolutely real thing, - Roman Marabyan, the director of Kharkov regional child care center says, - but if we don’t do it one of these months, the catastrophe will occur, because in the most of child care centers the filling is only 50%. Now 180 my colleagues and I are kamikazes, because we do everything for children going into families. But I go in planning meeting and my girls (from 18 till 70 years) look at me and ask: “Where will we be?” And I answer them: “You understand that we cannot keep children at any cost just for salary. Thanks God, they all understand that”.

Movement: international experience

At the end of April of this year in Kiev Kevin Braun, professor of Nottingham University has arrived on invitation of Kiev homeless children protection center “Our Children” (Nashi Deti) with its initiator – German-Polish-Ukrainian society heading by well-known in European business groups Barbara-Maria Monheim. At meeting with representatives of social services, civic organizations, departments and offices Mr. Kevin, who has been working with children from orphans’ establishments for many years, presented his new manual under the title “Deinstitutionalization and transformation of services for children”, which contains description of finished model for every children transferring. It is not either a theoretical pattern or dissimilar from Ukrainian realities regulation. In accordance with European experience, they offer to make children transferring into new format of establishments taking into account individual features and experience of every child. Only then deinstitutionalization will not turn into ordinary movement from A to B. In neighboring Hungry after passing a relevant law for “state children” they have made more than 400 small houses, where no more than 12 children upbringing were planed. But since they wanted to do it quickly, what is also typical for Ukrainians, all processes were not started properly. Only few employees were retrained and studied, consequently old methods of work entered into new life well. Large institution has just become a small one. Besides, local inhabitants were not informed about new neighbors, what caused problems with children socialization later. It all together turned into behavioral disorder.

How can we take into account individual features and experience of every child? International experts say that for that we should work out special preparatory program, with as full as possible information about every “state child” on the basis. They mean date and place of birth, detailed information about brothers and sisters, date of joining the institution, names and addresses of relatives, nature and frequency of their contacts with child etc. Separate page of this profile should be devoted to child’s past. In book “Deinstitutionalization and transformation of services for children” author tell the following: early in Hungarian institutions they didn’t mention fact of sexual abuse in children documents, what can be explain by sincere desire to help. As a result neither staff, nor potential adoptive parents didn’t know, what and why happened with child. But even ordinary man, not being a psychologist, understands very well, how this “experience” can change person’s life, how many complexes, pain and aggression can be gathered. But sexual abuse issue is not urgent for Hungary only. In Ukrainian institutions people, who care about children, do actually know very little information about child.

Deinstitutionalization: why do we need that?

Do you know that children, who spent their first life half a year/year in child care center, as a rule don’t cry or scream? Child’s crying and scream are the only one way for child to say about his or her needs, that is why in first child’s months he/she should use phrase “Come here!” ten thousand times the before say it. Long-terms investigations permitted to find out psychological explanation of these excitement- relaxation cycles: if man, who cares about child, responds to these calls, baby feels safe and develops very well. But if care for child is not consecutive, if his/her needs are taken into account from time to time or never – normal cycle of excitement- relaxation are broken and baby closes. Hence the silence amazes everybody, who visits child care centers, and rhythmic swinging of child in his/her bad attracts attention to itself. Nobody’s infant spends 18 hours a day in his/her bad, including sleep, because there is only one nurse per 8-12 children in Ukraine. How do they develop? Figure out!

In Great Britain, Norway and Island newborn and younger children are not put up in institutions. Even officials know: on biological and psychological level these children lose so many things, that in future even full family will no be able to meet all lacks. And it is not just fine words. Professor Braun, telling about his work in Kiev, showed transparencies, made in Rumania, with a brain activity measuring of children, who live in institutions, and children from foster homes. While researching, it was found out that children, living in family educated forms, had much higher brain activity, than children of the same age from the orphanages. Moreover the last had “lacks” in some parts of their brain, which are due to insufficiently developed feeling of themselves, absence of deep emotional relationships, inability to put themselves on other person’s place. To be honest “State inmates” even hardly imagine their future as a concept. Not without reason here every second girl from orphanage links her realization in life to… hairdressing. Because as lady Volynec said, we thought if child is fed, clad and shod, he/she does not need anything more…

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