Over 700,000 thousand Russian children are wards of the state.* Surprisingly, only 10% are true orphans (children whose biological parents are no longer alive). The remaining 90% have at least one parent still living. While some children are removed from their homes by the state because of abuse or neglect, other parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights because of poverty, parental mental illness, the child’s disability, or other challenges. Russia’s support services are very limited and generally unavailable for children from birth to 3 years of age. Parents left facing these challenges have little option but to sign over their parental rights and place their children in state-run institutions.
Children who are raised in institutions suffer severe developmental delays due to the lack of a one-to-one attachment with a caring adult. When children are emancipated at age 18, statistics from the Russian government show that only 10% will adapt to normal life, while 40% will lead a criminal lifestyle, 40% will develop a drug or alcohol addiction and 10% will commit suicide.** Since the negative impact of institutions on children and society as a whole is profound, Firefly is tirelessly working to give leaders the tools they need to keep children in families.
Fortunately, the solution is much less expensive than the problem. Consider the following figures:
||FAMILY SUPPORT PROGRAMS
After thoroughly assessing the Russian child welfare system, Firefly developed strategic programs to help ensure children live in families, not institutions. Key components of these programs include:
- Training healthcare, education, and social services providers to develop support services for vulnerable children and families
- Connecting Russian child welfare professionals with their Western peers to share information and experience
- Providing technical assistance in areas such as program implementation and evaluation
- Disseminating best practices in supporting families who are socially at-risk, raising children with disabilities, and fostering or adopting children from institutions
**See http://www.rusk.ru/st.php?idar=21986 and http://sirotinka.ru/ravnovesie/63.html; statistics from the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.
***Data is from personal conversation in 2010 with a baby orphanage director in Nizhny Novgorod Region. The cost is up to double this amount in Moscow (see http://www.newsland.ru/news/detail/id/712735/).