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Orphanage System in the Zaporozhzhye Region – Expensive, Inefficient, but… Financially Beneficial?

October 7, 2014, 12:50 3055 Author: Albert Pavlov, translated by Anna Oliynyk deti.zp.ua Instead of supporting the family, Ukrainian government spends more than 1,300 US dollars to keep one child in an orphanage. Education and Science Department of Zaporozhzhye Regional State Administration is thinking how to save jobs for orphanage staff

Imagine that a large family found itself in difficult life circumstances – the mother is not able to support six children on her own.

What support can she receive from the state? Apart from small benefits, her only option is to fill in an application form and send her children to an orphanage, not losing her parent’s rights. In this situation, at least 7,000 hryvnias (approximately 1,300 US dollars) will be spent for each of the children in the orphanage, which altogether makes 42,000 hryvnias (3,230 US dollars) for six children.

At the same time, there is no other mechanism to support such a family, apart from sending children to an orphanage. However, many of such families could receive help in the form of food products, clothes, footwear or utility payments as well as support of psychologists/social workers. If the mother could get support of about 500 hryvnias (40 US dollars) per child, the family could have stayed together. Thus, instead of spending 42,000 hryvnias (3,230 US dollars), the state could have spent 3,000 hryvnias (230 US dollars), and at the same time, children could have stayed with their family.

So why does the state spend so much money to keep children who have parents in orphanages? As I see it, the key reasons are as follows:

- desire of orphanage management and staff to keep their jobs;

- lack of professional psychologists and social workers who could provide quality services to families;

- difficulties in redistribution of funds from the orphanage system to the social support of families.

I would like to comment on the last point. Let’s imagine that the issue of orphanage care came down from state and regional level to district or village level. In this case, the family facing difficult life circumstances will come to the Head of District State Administration or Chair of the Village Council. Also, neighbors or social workers may inform them about such a family. The aim of the local authority is to solve this issue with minimum resources, as the local budget is not very big and the Head or the Chair needs money to support schools, build roads, maintain health care facilities, etc. So, if such public official has a choice – to pay 42,000 hryvnias (3,230 US dollars) from the local budget to keep children in an orphanage or to help the family with 3,000 hryvnyas (230 US dollars) per month – what choice will a man of sound judgment make? Of course, the second option sounds more reasonable. Especially considering the fact that a family-raised child, when he becomes an adult, will less likely cause as many troubles to the officials and the community, as an orphanage alumnus. So why does the family not get support in a less expensive and more effective way? The fact is that local authorities do not have the right to allocate money disbursed to support orphans and families in difficult life circumstances. This money comes from the state and the regional budgets.

So what can be done if parents are not able to take care of their own child? First psychologists and social workers should work with them, making maximum efforts to bring the family to normal life. I have to tell you that most orphanages have neither possibility nor desire to professionally work with families. Moreover, they are just not interested in children going back to their biological families.

If the process of family degradation went too far, then the mother and the father should be deprived of their parental rights and a new family should be found for the child or such a child should be placed into a foster family, a family-type orphanage or a small, up to 10 people, group house located not far from the place where the biological family of the child lives.

So what should our society do for the long-awaited orphanage system reform be initiated not only on paper but also in reality?

My opinion is that the society should put constant pressure on government authorities, demanding to provide quality services for a reasonable price.

It is not possible to stand by the Ukrainian government spending 6 billion hryvnias (461,538 US dollars) annually to support orphanages! This is not somebody else’s money, this is our money! It is not possible to stand by children taken away from their families and getting a lot of problems in future – development gap, participation in criminal activities, prostitution, suicidal inclinations, inability to build family relations.

When we look at the regional authorities in the Zaporozhzhye region, unfortunately we see a stubborn reluctance of the Education and Science Department to carry out real reforms. We have been discussing this question with the Head of Orphanage Facilities, Igor Shpyryn, for many years – but all the reforms we see only stipulate changing the names of institutions. Like now they are all called rehabilitation centers.

As a result – the Zaporozhzhye region takes the leading position by the share of children in orphanages, with 90% of such children not being deprived of parental care, which means that their parents are alive. Our Education Department is stubborn in ignoring best international practices and even direct orders of the Ukrainian President's Comissioner for Children's Rights – to prevent children from being brought to orphanages due to the poverty of their families. This is a real crime against children!

Moreover, during one of our meetings, when I asked the Head of the Education and Science Department of Zaporozhyzhe Regional State Administration, Nikolai Yaromshuk, a direct question: “Are orphanages a good thing or a bad thing?”, he replied “Yes, they are good!” with a storm of applause from the orphanage directors present at the meeting.

What can I say? How can you change the minds of people from the education system who were raised within the old Soviet-style system, which was focused on taking children away from their families? My personal opinion is that with such positions of Nikolai Yaromshuk and Igor Shpyryn we will never see any real reforms.

So will we further pay for an ineffective system, bringing sorrow to children? Or will we rather make those in power follow children’s interests?

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