Experts Discuss Effectiveness of Measures Aimed at Preventing Social Orphanhood

27 august 2019

Even though the causes of social orphanhood are fairly clear, the importance of every such cause can vary over time, noted Nelli Naigovzina, Deputy Head of the Analytical Center, as she opened a round table on the causes of social orphanhood. Efforts are underway to better prioritize the causes of this social phenomenon in order to refine the measures aimed at preventing it in order to allow kids to stay with their blood relatives whenever possible.

Experts of the Analytical Center and Yelena and Gennady Timchenko's Charity Foundation presented the preliminary findings of a joint study into the reasons why children end up in orphanages. The study was carried out in 76 provinces of Russia with anonymised data being supplied by over 800 orphanages with a total of 30,000 cases of social orphanhood being considered.

"We looked at the grounds for putting the child in an orphanage, the child's age, the situation that resulted in the decision to put them in an orphanage, the social and demographic characteristics of the parents, the period of time that the child had to stay in the orphanage," explained Natalia Nikolaeva, Head of the Department for Social Policy of the Analytical Center.

The study looked at a variety of grounds for putting children in orphanages such as: parents being stripped of custody rights, requests by parents that their child or children be temporarily put in an orphanage, parents abandoning their children, people agreeing to adopt a child and other grounds. The preliminary findings suggest that the importance of the causes of social orphanhood depends on the grounds for putting a child in an orphanage.

The authors of the study conclude that the main causes of social orphanhood are parents' alcohol and drug addiction, unwillingness on the part of parents to bring up their own children, financial difficulties of the family, death of one or both parents, serious illness of the child or the parents, commission of crimes by the parents, relationship problems between members of the family, mistreatment of children or serious hardships rendering parents incapable of parenting.

Tatiana Sinugina, Deputy Minister of Education of Russia, noted that every year some 50,000 children get orphaned in Russia. She went on to add that some 30-35 thousand children end up as social orphans because their parents have their custody rights limited or completely lose custody of their children. However, Ms Sinugina believes it would be wrong to regard restrictions of custody or parents being stripped of custody as the main causes of social orphanhood. According to her, as a regulator of family relations the Ministry of Education should understand the root causes of parents losing custody of their kids and determine the existing capabilities of the social services and the education system as a whole to identify and prevent such root causes of social orphanhood.

Maria Morozova, CEO with Yelena and Gennady Timchenko's Charity Foundation, noted that joint efforts by the Ministry of Education and other state and public organizations are currently improving the situation with prevention of social orphanhood. She also stressed the importance of civil society participation in further efforts to address this issue. However, the expert does not think that the problem can be eliminated completely.

The number of cases where children get separated from their blood relatives can be reduced through systematic and consistent efforts aimed at preventing family problems. Preventing social orphanhood is a complex task because it demands that problems be identified early on and their root causes be understood.

Elvira Garifulina, Head of the Family and Children program of Yelena and Gennady Timchenko's Charity Foundation, stressed that in order to prevent social orphanhood it's vital to sum up the existing algorithm for handling various family related situations and the actions of various parties involved in order to identify what gets in the way of such actions maximizing the effectiveness of help rendered in various situations where a child may get separated from his or her blood family.

The final findings of the study of the causes of social orphanhood will be presented in early November.