06/04/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Russia facing an orphanage and adoption crisis

by Nina Achmatova
There are almost 700,000 orphans in Russia. About 30,000 orphans were adopted and then sent back to an orphanage in two years. The Civil Committee for Human Rights slams the situation, whilst Russian Children's Rights Ombudsman Astakhov calls for the reorganisation of orphanages into family-based models of care.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Human rights activists on Monday held a protest in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg in defence of children’s rights. In the last two months, media and politicians have focused on the plight of children, who too often are victims of abuse in their birth families and more rarely in foundling homes (state orphanages).

The ‘Civil Committee for Human Rights’ organised the action on International Children's Day. Its leader, Roman Chorny, said that the main problem today was safeguarding children from “improper and baseless psychiatric diagnoses.”

“Very often children in orphanages are 'punished' for their misbehaviour by injections of psychotropic drugs with side effects,” he said, adding that in many cases, such children end up in psychiatric clinics and become handicapped.

The problem of orphanages and adoptions in Russia goes back a long time. Lately, politicians have had to get involved after an American nurse in April sent back a seven-year-old Russian child. The single woman said that she did not want him anymore because he “was mentally unstable, violent and had ‘severe psychopathic issues/behaviours’.”The boy, Artem Saveliev, was adopted just seven months before.  

His case has led to the suspension of adoptions of Russian children in the United States and has put the spotlight on the conditions of orphans in Russia.

Too many orphans and too many orphanages

The fact is that in the Russian Federation, according to experts, there are too many orphans, too many orphanages and few local adoptions. At present, there are more “official” orphans now than during the Second World War, almost 700,000 (697,000 to be precise) against 678,000 in the 1940s.

Two thirds of orphans are in fact “social orphans”, children taken from their birth family because of alcoholism, domestic violence or rejection by the parents.

The chairwoman of the parliamentary (Duma) Committee on Family and Children, Yelena B. Mizulina, spoke about the situation recently.

Two years ago, the Duma adopted a law to help orphans, she noted. Since then “the number of orphans sent back from adoptive families to orphanages jumped twofold.” This, according to Mizulina, represents “serious human harm” for the children; first, they are rejected by their biological parents, then by their adoptive parents.

According to Echo of Moscow” Radio, about 30,000 children were sent back to orphanages. For Mizulina, this situation was created because no one takes care of adoptive parents or provides them any form of assistance.

Family violence

Too often, orphaned children in Russia are psychologically “sensitive”. This is clear from the data concerning abuse and violence against children. Again, Echo of Moscow radio talked about the matter, quoting Russian Children's Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who said that about 100,000 crimes against children were committed in Russia in 2009, 2,000 children were killed, and 600 disappeared after escaping from home.

Astakhov has proposed that the childcare and education system be reorganised for children from problem families.

“Orphanages are a very closed environment,” he lamented. “We must turn them into family-centred models of care, based on the idea of small units. The reorganisation of these homes is our duty to the children who live under the protection of the state,” he said.

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