Experts Discuss How to Work with Orphans and Abandoned Children

16 february 2016

The Analytical Center and the Elena and Gennady Timchenko’s Charity Foundation are implementing a project aimed at improving the effectiveness of support offered to orphaned and abandoned children. Experts held a round table to talk about the functioning of relevant organizations, ways to support foster families, problems with legal regulations and ways to make information about orphaned and abandoned children easier to access.

Natalia Nikolayeva, the Head of the Department for Social Policy of the Analytical Center, talked about the key stages of the project and its goals. Stage one involves analyzing the available forms of support offered to foster families and assessing the effectiveness of these forms of support. “What is important at this stage is to identify existing and potential ways we can support foster families,” the expert believes. The second stage involves assessing the costs and effectiveness of caring for orphaned and abandoned children in different kinds of organizations, to which end a mechanism needs to be developed for integrating the practices and models used by private organizations into the practices and methods used by state and municipal organizations. The third stage involves preparing conceptual proposals for how to improve the laws and regulations in this area while the fourth stage will involve developing proposals and recommendations for how to make information about orphaned and abandoned children more open and more accessible in Russia, the expert explained.

The Analytical Center's expert Marina Klishina talked about the main trends identified during the assessment. The specialists estimated per capita costs of caring for one child, comparing this year’s data with those from last year and studying the changes. As a result, it was established that the number of various kinds of organizations working in this area keeps growing as are the ways the functions of supporting children and foster families are distributed among them. At the same time, analysis of organizations involved in orphan care in Russian regions does not always allow experts to identify the functions the organizations perform. There also remains the trend towards growing per capital costs per child even as the number of orphan care organizations and children in them keeps falling while the information about private organizations working with orphans remains extremely scarce, Ms. Klishina noted.

The Chairperson of the Management Board of the National Foundation for the Protection of Children from Abuse Alexander Spivak is sure that there are two areas work must focus on today: prevention and services offered before children get abandoned or orphaned. “As for prevention, we do not break down our budget by various parameters so it is unclear how much money gets spent on what,” the expert said. “It is important to learn to estimate costs of real services and to do that we need to carry out more in-depth analysis in several regions and decide which areas we need to work on.” When working with orphans it is important to pay more attention to supporting foster families, Spivak believes. In his opinion, standardization and in-depth analysis are needed to achieve that because at the moment there is a lot of variation in how support of foster families is interpreted.

“We are living in a time when nobody is interested in what happens to people and everybody is interested instead in performance indicators and this new bias we have is very dangerous for the society,” Marina Levina, the Chair of the Parental Bridge Foundation believes. The expert does not think that the same amount of money should be spent on the care for each and every child in a special care institution. “Two thirds of abandoned kids in St. Pete are special needs kids. They need palliative care, special rehabilitation and special care and all those things can run into pretty penny,” the specialist explained. In her opinion, until palliative care is available at home, special needs children cannot be placed with foster families.