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Ukraine will soon have no parentless children

March 4, 2007, 3:00 3560 Author: Olha Pokotylo The Day, Ukrainian newspaper Reforms of the system of care for parentless children were implemented in four oblasts of Ukraine

Project aimed at reforming guardianship

Long ago Ukrainian society understood that childcare facilities are not the best way to raise the future generation of the nation. The authorities came to the same conclusion recently. In 2004, a project was launched on the initiative of the Ukrainian foundation Children’s Welfare and with support from the Ministry of Youth, Family, and Sports, the State Children’s Social Service, and various local authorities, aimed at reforming the childcare system. Its results were made public last Thursday: judging by the rates of transforming childcare facilities into foster homes, in a few years there will be no parentless children left in Ukraine.

Reforms of the system of care for parentless children were implemented in four oblasts of Ukraine. “During this period, owing to the introduction of foster homes, 1,302 children found families. This number is the equivalent of four childcare facilities,” says Svitlana Tolstoukhova, Deputy Minister of Youth, Family, and Sports. According to the ministry’s data, in 2006 half of all adopted children in Ukraine were adopted or became wards of the state. This is a direct consequence of the state program of reforming orphanages, launched in May 2006. If everything goes according to plan, by the time the program ends in 2017 Ukraine will have few orphanages in the contemporary meaning of this word.

During the project’s implementation special attention was paid to training foster parents under the PRIDE program, which was specially adapted for Ukraine. To adopt a child, desire is not enough. It is not enough to have money, too. Primarily, one needs skills for communicating with homeless children. Over a period of three years 290 foster parents acquired theoretical knowledge on how to deal with these children. At special seminars prospective parents were taught to protect a child, understand and meet its needs, strengthen family ties, etc.

“Children realize that they have lost their parents. That is why when they come to a new family they are happy at first,” says Rob van Pagee, director of Stichting Op Kleine Schaal. “But later the child starts to test the new family - will they forgive me? Will they kick me out of the house if I break something? So, first of all, parents should be taught how to behave in difficult situations.”

The project was a success and should be continued, both the organizers and foster families believe. The prospects of children left without parental care were revealed by a poll conducted by the Yaremenko Institute for Social Research in the oblasts within the project’s scope. According to the survey, over two-thirds of respondents sympathize with children brought up in orphanages; one out of twenty-five people is biased toward orphans, considering them potential wrongdoers.

At the same time, sympathetic Ukrainians know very little about the current reform of the system of childcare facilities - only five percent of respondents are familiar with the issue, while others have either heard something general about it or know nothing at all. Nearly 70 percent of Ukrainians think that encouraging child adoption among Ukrainian citizens will promote the reform; 79 percent stake on support for adoptive families and foster family homes; two-thirds are confident that first and foremost it is crucial to help families in difficult circumstances in order to prevent children from going to orphanages.

Obviously, Ukrainians still have too little information about parentless children and the ways to help them. Potential parents were asked a pivotal question: what can you personally do and what do you want to do for them? The nearly unanimous answer was, “I don’t want to.” No more than five percent of respondents want to adopt a child, set up a foster home, or become a guardian or nurturer. This cannot be called an achievement, considering the number of financial and social problems that average Ukrainians have to resolve.

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