Adoption in Russia
In Russia, every year approximately 130,000 children are registered as orphans due to death or abandonment by their parents, or because they have been removed from their homes for their own protection. While some are moved to the care of relatives, nearly 200,000 orphans are currently growing up without families in state institutions.
Kidsave’s Family Visit Model has paved the way to moving many Russian children into Russian families promoting adoption in Russia.
In 2001, Kidsave launched its first in-country program in the Smolensk region of Russia, giving over 1,000 Russian orphans visits with Russian families during the summer, holidays and weekends. These visits allowed the children to experience family life, and gave host families the chance to get to know the children in a comfortable environment.
Of that group, 477 moved out of orphanages and into families. 220 stayed connected with families who continued to mentored them, while the children remained living in the orphanage.
On Sakhalin Island, after just two years of the family visit model program, 177 children had moved to families and three orphanages were able to be closed.
Connecting Kids With Caring Adults
Our family visit program in Russia has been used to destigmatize orphans in the community and connect them with caring, local families for summer, holiday and weekend visits. These visits enabled the children to experience family life, and gave host families the chance to get to know the children in a comfortable environment changing the stigmata of adoption in Russia. As a result of our program in Smolensk, more than 1000 orphaned children in Russia moved out of orphanages or have long term connections with caring mentors. On Sakhalin Island, after just two years in operation, 177 children moved to families and three orphanages were closed. Currently Kidsave Sakhalin, a Russian organization, is working with children as soon as they enter local shelters to connect children back into families at the earliest possible date.
Each year, thousands of children are born in Russia to teenage mothers, many of whom are orphans themselves. These children in Russia are often abandoned by their mothers who have no parenting skills, no way to care for these infants, and no caring adult to offer help and advice. Thus the cycle of abandonment and orphaned youth continues.
In 2004, Kidsave introduced the Malenkaya Mama (Teen Mother) program in St. Petersburg, designed to keep children at risk for abandonment out of the orphanages by teaching teenage mothers and pregnant teens — many of them girls from the orphanages — how to care for their babies. In 2010 the program expanded to Moscow. Young mothers work with trained social workers and psychologists who assist them in establishing strong, healthy parent-child relationships. The program also includes working with them to obtain access to government benefits, obtain marketable skills and find housing and jobs. To date, 126 young women have participated in the program and all are continuing to parent their babies. The children remain in families — outside of state care!
Preparing Orphans for Independent Living in Russia
Russian orphans are emancipated from the child welfare system between ages 15 and 18. Most leave the orphanage without a high school education, unable to support themselves and with no caring adult to support them.
Kidsave’s School of Life program helps prepare older youth for young adulthood and independent living. In the School of Life program, older orphans are taught how to write a resume and find a job, create a budget, shop wisely, and understand their rights to housing and government subsidies. Once emancipated, youth continue to meet on weekends in a therapeutic “School of Life” Club receiving the ongoing support they need to transition into healthy adulthood. The program has served hundreds of youth and continues to grow.
Training the Trainers (TOT)
As Kidsave programs in Russia have demonstrated success, the goal is for these programs is to become sustainable by being adopted by their local government child welfare systems.
In mid 2008, Kidsave’s Smolensk program become sustainable, integrated in the child welfare structure in the region. The Smolensk NGO created and supported by Kidsave now receives the majority of its funding from the Russian Federal and local administrative governments.
On Sakhalin Island, after only two years, the Department of Education integrated Kidsave’s family placement program into the government system and has also created a Regional Center for Family Placement. As of January 2009, Kidsave’s representative office in Sakhalin achieved independent status as a Russian non-profit organization, Kidsave Sakhalin, thus expanding the reach and sustainability of Kidsave programs in Russia.
So that our successes can be replicated in other places, Kidsave has developed educational materials and seminars to train child welfare professionals (social workers, psychologists, etc.) who work with orphans in Russia in permanency and family-based care models. Once trained, these professionals can go on to engage and train orphaned children, families and mentors to participate in family visit programs, and provide selection, recruitment, evaluation and family/mentor-child matching and ongoing support and monitoring.
To date, Kidsave has trained more than 500 child welfare professionals in Russia and continues to focus on regional training and capacity-building. Over the next five years, these professionals have the potential to change the lives of more than 125,000 children in Russia orphanages.
For more information contact Tatiana Stafford firstname.lastname@example.org.