A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my colleague Victor who mentioned that the number of children living in orphanages has decreased by half in the Murmansk region over the past few years. Wow! How happy I was to hear that – especially since SOS played an important role in this.
FAMILY FOR EVERY CHILD
In this post I would like to tell you about some big changes that have been made to the child welfare system in Russia which have led to some great results.
In 2013 the approach to caring for orphaned children in Russia was significantly revised with the adoption of a new state policy on children. Among the many important things stipulated in the policy was the placing of priority on family-based care over institutional care. That meant that children without parental care were to be placed with other families rather than in orphanages. The phrase ‘a child should be cared for in a family setting’ has become the official state position.
This is where it gets interesting. In practice this change resulted in the immense development of foster care in Russia. Many state orphanages all over the country have closed as they are no longer needed. I will not bore you with numbers and statistics, but I’ll just give you one example: 7 out of 12 orphanages in the Murmansk region are no longer operating since all the children who used to live there have been taken to foster families.
I’m particularly excited to say that SOS has played an important role in this positive process. Since 1996 SOS has been promoting family type of care at all levels as the best form of child-placement. By the way, many key objectives of the new Russian children’s policy were inspired or directly borrowed from SOS. More importantly, the vision of SOS – ‘every child belongs to a family’ – became the official state position and also became a reality at a national level. Together we managed to change the lives of thousands children for the better in such a big country like Russia. Isn’t that amazing?!
HOME FOR EVERY FAMILY
Some of my friends and colleagues have also become foster parents so I know what I am talking about. Just as it has done in past years, SOS Russia cherishes this positive process and keeps supporting foster parents and children. As an important contribution to this development, we launched a foster family programme in 2013. We provide mandatory seminars for foster families and support them in their day-to-day life. A couple of years ago we opened a centre for foster families in Murmansk. In the centre, we invite the children for workshops where they can gain life skills or just have fun, and we also work with the teachers.
In addition to this, five families got the opportunity to live directly in the SOS Children’s Village Kandalaksha. I’d like you to meet one of the families: the family of Maria* and Alexander. Maria and Alexander became foster parents in 2013 when they welcomed three children into their family. Three years later a lovely boy joined them. In 2016 the whole family moved into a house in the village. ‘Though we had our own two children we always dreamed about having a bigger family. This is how it all got started,’ – says Maria. ‘In the village we found better living conditions than we could find elsewhere. I am not only talking about the nice house but also the warm attitudes of the people and the support which is the best we could have ever hoped for. I’m thankful to all the good people in the village. They have become a part of our family too. This is basically how we live here – like one big family.’
I’m happy and proud to see that there are many people like Maria in Russia and worldwide. These people are a big deal – they make the world a better and friendlier place for children who need it most. I can’t stop admiring them. In this respect the relationship between SOS Children’s Village and foster families to me looks very much like a cooperation or symbiosis: foster families – care for children and SOS Children’s Village cares for the foster families. Anyway we all have the same goal – giving children a loving home. So why not cooperate?
In my next posts I’ll introduce you to more awesome people living and working in SOS Russia. It’s another good reason to stay connected with ‘At home in the World’. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what the situation is like with foster care in your country. I’d be happy to learn more about that.
*I’ve changed the names for privacy reasons