Family Care and Mentoring in Russia

Kidsave started working in Russia in 1999 when we brought our first group of children living in orphanages for summer vacations with American families. From that international adoption program Kidsave introduced the Family Visit Model and mentoring models 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.

Since those early days Kidsave developed other programs to serve children at risk in Russian orphanages and to help teen moms keep their babies out of institutions.  These programs are described below. 

Connecting Kids With Caring Adults

Family Visit Model RussiaOur 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 stigma 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.

Kidsave offers training to central and regional government officials, orphanage workers and local NGOs in how to implement the family visit model.  We are seeking local organizations on the ground to take on these programs and give more children hope for committed, caring adults in their lives.

Mama MalenkayaEach 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, 180 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

Strong Shoulders RussiaRussian 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)

Training the Trainers RussiaAs 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

Corporate Mentoring

Corporate Mentoring is a unique model created by Kidsave for the most vulnerable youth — orphan and foster children that are about to emancipate from the institutional care. While developing the strategy, we considered specifics of behavior and social environment of these at-risk youth. Our approach helps to create significant and lasting change in the lives of this children by providing them with stable and lasting connections with successful business people that become their career mentors and role models. 

The model focuses on recruiting, screening, training and supporting mentors from various businesses. These corporate mentors and volunteers help young people unlock their potential, develop emotional, legal and financial literacy, increase self-confidence and professional self-determination; and build necessary employment skills. We developed methods and protocols on how to engage business into career mentoring and how increase youth’s motivation to professional and personal development. 

We have seen much progress since Kidsave started working in Russia. In 2004, there were approximately 800,000 children in Russia in institutional care. Today, just 80,000 children live in institutions, and family-based care is the strategic priority.

Kidsave’s Russian office closed in December 2017.  We leave in our place a Russian organization, Childhood Keepers, that is working with Kidsave models and breaking new ground to help Russian children grow up in families. 

Kidsave is proud to have been part of the change that has been created
in Russian child welfare over the years.

To contribute to help Russian orphans find families efforts click here and designate your gift to
programs in the Russian Federation.


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