Russian Orphans Suffer Neglect

17/5/2010 - Russian orphans continue to suffer neglect in both orphanages and in some adoptive families.

There are a large number of orphans in Russia. UNICEF pegs the number of Russian children who have been orphaned or are without parental care at 700 000. 140 000 live in orphanages, hoping to be adopted by Russian families or families around the world. Many of the children are known as “social orphans”—meaning that their parents are living but do not want to or cannot care for them.

The welfare of Russia’s orphans made headlines last month when a US woman sent an adopted Russian boy back home alone. They boy arrived in the country with only a note from his adopted mother saying that she no longer wanted him. Since the mid-1990s, when US adoptions of Russian children first began, there have been a number of cases where the children have been killed or died of neglect, reports the BBC. The event strained relations, prompting Russia to put a hold on all adoptions before continuing to engage in talks to create a bilateral protocol with the US on adoption.

Since 2006, Russia has had a policy that promotes the adoption of Russian children within the country. Financial incentives are given to families willing to adopt. However, current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev states that improving access to kindergartens and other social services is important too.

In only the last two years, 30 000 adopted children have been returned to orphanages. Child rights organizations in Russia say that longer-term access to psychological and medical assistance for adoptive families and children is vital. Once they leave the orphanages, children who aren’t adopted often end up in the world of organized crime, in drugs and prostitution for instance, says one member of the Slavic Gospel Association.

The county’s ombudsman for children Pavel Astakhov appears to discourage international adoptions as the primary method of intervention, saying “We cannot allow ourselves to give away our children in such numbers.” Actually, international child advocates such as UNICEF have noted the viability of in-country family-based models of care and community care of orphans rather than the conventional orphanage and adoption system, for every child is deserving of a family and indeed has a right to a family. Such models are more conducive to healthy, vibrant and well-cared for children.