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"Festive" results of the state policy on child protection

June 10, 2021, 19:40 931 Author: Alla Kotlyar zn.ua There are no other people's children? Don't deceive yourself. You have to change yourself.

Do you know which texts get the least views? About kids. And if the reader still reacts to the story about the fate of an individual child, mostly tragic, then the story about any attempts to change the system, form clear rules and build processes due to which thousands of children's stories across the country would not turn into a tragedy, at best the case leaves him indifferent, and even annoying.

Do you still operate with the cliche that "children are never strangers"? You are simply deceiving yourself. There are. There are hundreds of thousands of them. Officially and unofficially deprived of parental care, suffering from violence and in our supposedly humane and tolerant society, they have no rights. All this happens next to you every day. You, each in his place, simply do not want to notice, do not want to interfere, preferring to turn away. And from this text too. Because everyone has a lot of their own problems.

On International Children's Day, officials will happily report back on achievements, each distorting the meaning of the really sad numbers in their favor. On the occasion of the holiday, the Cabinet of Ministers will increase payments for the birth of a child (and what about without populism?) And will adopt a number of important, but unfinished documents, which in the near future will create a lot of problems for those who have to work with them. And most importantly - to those who with them will have to live by them, that is, children. This has already happened more than once.

Meanwhile, for experts, public organizations, for those who constantly work in the field of protecting the rights of the child and face their violation every day, June 1 is not a holiday. This is a sad day, hard work and an occasion to draw your attention to children's topics at least once a year. Therefore, for the first time, they will gather under the Cabinet of Ministers for the action "Children - Trampled Flowers" to remind the authorities of their obligations. Because for several years in a row, the deinstitutionalization proclaimed at every corner was “covered with a copper basin,” and the problems that had been accumulating for decades were paid attention only for a catchphrase.

However, they will not be heard. Citizens will pass by. And, hurrying home from work, they might guess to buy their child ice cream, sweets or a bright ball. The most "conscientious" will probably even throw a "pretty penny" to charity, and someone will go to boarding schools with gifts.

There are no other people's children? Don't deceive yourself. You have to change yourself.

Some statistics

The best place to live and raise a child is the family. And when different circumstances make life in their own family impossible, in developed societies they take care that children are brought up in conditions as close as possible to those of a family.

expert on the protection of the rights of the child Lyudmila Volynets

“In Ukrainian legislation, guardianship, foster families and family-type orphanages (FTO) are considered as alternative family forms of raising children,” says child protection expert Lyudmila Volynets. - Patronage is not such a form, it is a service. A child can live in a foster family temporarily (from three to six months) until his biological family is restored or another one is found for him”. Another form of raising children who, for one reason or another, cannot be accommodated in a family, were supposed to be small group houses (SGH), the conditions in which were conceived as as close as possible to family ones. Living in such houses, children had to socialize and integrate into society. Unfortunately, the terminological uncertainty in the country negatively affects both the identification of problems and the decision-making.

This was also influenced by almost two years of the pandemic.

«The number of cases of placing children in all forms of family education has decreased, — says Lyudmila Volynets. - If we have objective information on adoptions (statistics are based on court decisions), then statistics about foster families, FTO and guardianship is based on the decision of the guardianship and trusteeship body and causes great distrust. As a rule, information is updated on the number of children placed in foster families and FTO per year. In 2020, that number is increased (1906 children) compared to the previous year (1870 children). However, analyzing the statistics, I found the following: when a family moves from one region to another, the Ministry of Social Policy in one territory considers children to have dropped out, and in another - to be newly settled. I found 50 such “newly arranged” children. That is, this is not growth is not the first time arranged children, but those who were “arranged” for the second time.

asked the employees of the Ministry of Social Policy if they check how objective information the regions provide them: by families, children, and so on. It turned out not to be checked.

But in any case, the fact that 36 more children are accommodated in family forms of upbringing is an insignificant indicator for a country with a population of 40 million and 70 thousand orphans. Although the Ministry of Social Policy is proud of him.

The number of adoptions decreased by a third. There are also cases of placing children under guardianship, albeit only slightly. In 2019, 49,624 children were placed in this form of family education, in 2020 - 49,016.

Is this only connected with the pandemic, as the Ministry of Social Policy explains?

n fact, was influenced by many factors. And the reduction and uncertainty of the new status of social services for children after the liquidation of the districts. And the introduction of compulsory training for adoptive parents, guardians, foster parents and parent-educators of the FTP. Since during the pandemic, all forms of assembly, including those related to training, were canceled, it was almost impossible to fulfill such a requirement.

The decrease in the number of arranged children is a direct consequence of the inaction of the Ministry of Social Policy, for which it was much easier to prohibit procedures related to the placement of children in families, explaining this with a covid. It was forbidden to get acquainted with children, to establish relations with them, to undergo training for candidates for adoptive parents. This may sound rude, but adopting children cannot be compared to work a restaurant. The Ministry of Social Policy was supposed to organize this process.

About patronat. It develops very slowly. And there are reasons for that. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, as of February 1, 2021, there were only 180 families of foster carers in Ukraine. Of these, 112 are in UTC (United territorial community). From 2017 to 2021, a thousand children passed through this system. The most active in this sense are Kirovograd (136 children), Kharkov (148) and Cherkassy (114) regions.

In some areas there is none patronat family: in Volyn, Khmelnytsky, Transcarpathian, Ternopil and Chernivtsi.

Of the thousands of children who have passed through foster care during this time, 723 have already dropped out. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, almost 50% of these children were returned to biological families. If these families have really been rebuilt, that's great.

Another 45% are children who, after patronage, received the status of orphans or deprived of parental care and guardianship. This means that they have dropped out into family forms of upbringing - either in foster families, or in the FTP, or under guardianship. There are 328 such children.

50 children after patronage were sent to boarding schools. And this is the defeat of patronage as a service.

Most of these children live in Kirovograd, Nikolaev, Chernigov, Lviv and Odessa regions.

Again, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Social Policy, 49 children are in foster families for longer than the permitted period, that is, more than 3-6 months. The overwhelming majority of them are in Kharkiv (29 children), Kiev (7), Kherson and Cherkassk (6 children) regions. Sometimes such children are in foster care for two years or more. Getting into a boarding school after foster care or staying in foster care longer than the statutory period is painful for children. Patronage is a temporary service. Its quintessence is to help the child get through the period when his parents are recuperating as parents. This is an important difference from a foster family. Unfortunately, this difference is poorly understood at the local level.

SGH. According to the official information of the Ministry of Social Policy, six such houses have been built in Ukraine today. And none of them work, since not a single community, on the territory of which this institution is located, is in a position to finance it. On June 1, a procedure for financing children who will be detained in the SGH. That is, the regional state administration creates such houses, and they will be financed from the state budget. This form does not fit well into the current processes of decentralization, is not well thought out and still looks more like a stillborn. The history of the emergence of the SGH is that, at the initiative of the Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child, the idea was torn from the Center for Supporting Families and Children, created in the Dnipropetrovsk district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, where the SGH is one of the structural divisions of the center. "

Regional Director of the International Charitable Organization

“Is the development of the SGH(Small group house) and its concept as a whole being observed as one of the possible solutions for the placement of a child who is actually deprived of parental care? - asks Regional Director of the International Charitable Organization "Hope and Housing for Children" Galina Postolyuk, one of the founders of the already mentioned Center for Supporting Families and Children in the Dnipropetrovsk region. - Yes, this is one of the solutions. But I doubt that there is development. Today there is construction for which a state subvention has been allocated. There is a provision on SGH, and this year a subvention for the maintenance of children has appeared. But we again put the cart in front of the horse - first we build something, and then we think if we have children who will live there.

In some communities, children who demanded a placement in the SGH are not registered. However, they had to realize the subvention intended for the construction of the SGH.

In the SGH model, which we created in December 2013 in the Dnipropetrovsk region, every little thing was important. Because we wanted this facility to be fundamentally different from a typical institutional care facility. Both the architecture of the house and the location were important - it had to be integrated into society.

The SGH currently under construction are very different, especially in the conditions of the village. They even have a separate playground that all children cannot use. This, again, is an element of institutional culture that we continue to cultivate - everything must be closed behind a fence.

Unfortunately, there is a high risk that SGH can become institutions like boarding schools. There are no requirements for educators, no standards, no program for the preparation and training of teams to work in the SGH, no methodological support. Today people actually come there from the street, they have no understanding of the meaning. The biggest shock for candidates is that they have to work with relatives, since parents are deprived of parental rights. They do not understand that the child has the right to know his relatives, and if he wants to, these contacts must be restored.

What does a model that is as close to family conditions as possible mean? Where is it written? For example, our SGH has an individual plan for working with a child. The child is included in this process. Far-reaching goals are set in some specific areas: the child must achieve something r in school in communication with relatives. An individual approach - primarily in a relationship of trust. Unfortunately, all of this was excluded from the position adopted by the Cabinet. And without this, it is impossible to build a system as close as possible to family education.

There are statements about the development of alternative forms of education. But nothing is being done to make this development happen”.

About violence

Much has been said about the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. Of course, alternative family forms of upbringing did not pass by this either.

However, according to Lyudmila Volynets, separate statistics of cases of violence against children in foster families, FTO and under the tutelage of the Ministry of Social Policy does not keep. No monitoring.

“Last year, due to the facts of violence in Ivano-Frankivsk region, one FTO was closed and disbanded. This is what is officially recorded, - says the expert. - This year I asked the Ministry of Social Policy to explain why 288 foster families were disbanded last year. I suppose that some of them are due to the fact of violence either between parents, or between children and parents, or between children. The Ministry of Social Policy provided information on the reasons for the disbandment, but they are formulated in such a way that it is impossible to draw conclusions and objectively assess the reasons.

There are no statistics on cases of violence in the families of adoptive parents, guardians, in foster families and FTO in the country. I can say that in 2020 there has been a sharp increase in the number of children who died while in alternative family forms of upbringing. I was especially alarmed by the fact that out of 12 children who died in foster families and FTO, five committed suicide. This probably allows us to assert that such a decision of them could be, in particular, a reaction to violence. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Social Policy, again, does not provide an analysis of such cases. Most often we hear about "blue whales" or circumstances that no one can influence. This is called almost the only reasons for the increase in suicidal moods among children. I do not exclude this, although I cannot agree with this. Every case of childhood suicide must be very carefully investigated in terms of identifying the causes. Very often, a child commits suicide not for one reason, but for several at once.

Let us recall at least the recent case of the suicide of a teenager from the Rodikovs' FTO, which occurred after the death of both parent-educators from coronavirus. Before his death, the guy recorded a video message in which (attention!) He tried not to explain, but to exclude the reason, saying that the school was not to blame and the bullying had nothing to do with it. Has anyone got to the bottom of the real reason? Unfortunately, she is still unknown. And this is one of the major problems. Since every suicide has not only legal reasons - driving to suicide, but also a very serious psychological component - personality tendencies, the child's past history, ways of solving problems, etc.

Let me emphasize: in 2019, the dock year, there were two cases of suicide of children from foster families and FTO, in 2020 - five, and in 2021 - already 12. That is, the increase is significant. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Social Policy does not analyze this ”.

“Monitoring is a sensitive issue,” adds Galina Postolyuk. - We said that it is necessary to create an independent agency that would monitor the quality of the services provided; what happens to children in alternative forms. But for this, certain quality standards must be prescribed. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Now on one or two social workers in the OTC they want to hang everything. And verification, and protection of families, and the search for foster families, and control in the SGH. I don't think it should be that way. It is a long-standing tradition that normative acts are issued clandestinely, without public discussion. Then, in fact, we think about how to explain to others how this act works or criticize. We expect that it will be released on June 1, except for the planned increase in assistance at the birth of a child from 40 to 50 thousand hryvnias by the Cabinet of Ministers. This does not in any way solve social problems. Despite the fact that the necessary work is not being carried out.

Violence in SGH is possible, as in any institution. And children can be saved from him. If there is a clear methodological support, supervision of employees, prevention of burnout. There should be quality standards, a child protection policy. Openness, guaranteed by a trusting relationship, when the child can tell the mentor about his problem. All this should be regulated. But the most important thing is still the training of employees and their selection.

No one is immune from violence. Especially when our country does not have all these standards ”.

International experience

the national director of the ICO “CF“ SOS Children's Towns Ukraine ”Sergey Lukashov

“If we start with general theses, then I would say that in Ukraine there is no tradition of social work in a community, there is no clear example of what a professional social work specialist who works with families in his community is. What is sometimes called a “local social worker”, - continues the national director of the ICO “CF“ SOS Children's Towns Ukraine ”Sergey Lukashov. - Few have seen specialists in social work. And there are few of them. Therefore, people have ideas about vulnerable families and about violence in families, I would say, mostly mystical: there are people who are innately bad, and there are people who are innately saints. The bad ones beat the children, and the children should be taken from such families. And there are wonderful people, for example, adoptive parents or parent-educators of family forms. With their kindness and holiness, they will solve all the problems of children.

This is an irrational view. In fact, both the problem and its solution (family forms) require a methodology - a professional approach. We can work with vulnerable (what we call “difficult life circumstances”) families, where there are problems of neglect or abuse of children (in our organization there is a more subtle gradation - unacceptable behavior). For this, methods and socio-psychological technologies have been developed.

In most of these cases, the family can be helped to end the violence and restore harmony. And the child will be fine with his parents. Likewise, parent-educators: no matter how motivated, ethical and, as they say, resourceful, that is, strong socially and emotionally, but over time they get tired, exhausted, begin to get irritated, since no one is iron, no one not a robot. It becomes more and more difficult for them to cope with negative emotions, of which there are a lot in such work.

Violence is also possible in good parenting families. To prevent this, you need maintenance technology. Then we will constantly maintain the good condition of the family, the functionality of the parent-educators and, accordingly, the protection of children. These are general provisions.

As for the specifics. Although on a national scale, SOS Children's Towns Ukraine is a very small organization, it has a long history and is part of a global federation that has existed since 1949, is quite ramified and operates in 136 countries around the world. That is, we have accumulated a lot of experience. Both positive and, admittedly, negative. We know the underwater reefs where violence, so to speak, lurks, how it can be disguised, what actions to prevent or solve it will be effective and what will not.

We work both with families in difficult life circumstances and with family forms of upbringing, where to the state suits children. We have a child protection policy and a child protection policy within the organization. The first is about all the children we meet in the communities where we work.

Our social workers accompany about 1,500 children in vulnerable families ("Family Strengthening Center"). Moreover, escorting, in our case, is a long and regular process, stretched out for a year or two, until the family gets back on its feet. That is, it is a stable and trusting relationship and a careful study of the state of the family and the child. Thanks to this, as well as experience and methodology, our employees can detect the fact or suspicion of child abuse. We always pass this information on to the child welfare service.but further, unfortunately, the system in Ukraine as a whole fails. What should be done to protect the child? Unfortunately, this mechanism has not been worked out. Although there has been a lot of talk about the Domestic Violence Law in recent years, it is still not considered a serious problem. And even if some dedicated and conscientious officers believe they do not have the tools to protect victims.

We can only offer rehabilitation. But if the abuse is repeated over and over, rehabilitation becomes ineffective. And sometimes, already too late, the question arises about the removal of the child from this family, the condemnation of the offender. That is, we are bringing the situation to an unacceptable state, although it was possible to intervene at the very beginning of the crisis.

This is partly to blame for our social traditions, which are finally gradually changing, but still remain dominant: you should not go into someone else's family, they will sort it out among themselves, they beat us - and we grew up good people, so it's okay, etc. .d. This continues to act and cripple the lives of children.

On the policy of protecting children within the organization. We work with FTO and foster families. We accompany them throughout the child's stay there and even after the young man leaves the FTO - within the framework of our youth program, we support him until the age of 23. We also identify and try to prevent cases of guardian violence against children whom they bring up. I repeat: no one is perfect, and wonderful people left to their own devices without support eventually burn out.

In the FTO in Ukraine there are cases of violence against children. Sometimes even very egregious. But everything must be understood in context. In residential institutions, the level of violence is immeasurably higher, worse, and manifests itself in many more different forms. Even though there are sometimes cases of violence in family forms, they are safer and better for the child than collective housing in a boarding school.

In "SOS Children's Towns Ukraine", thanks to the support system and specialists who constantly support parent-educators, there are few cases of violence by parent-educators in relation to children. We do not lead to difficult situations. Of the 140 children who are now under our in family forms, there were six suspicions during the year. Everyone was investigated. Only one fact was confirmed. Over the past three years, there have been two such facts. In one case, a pre-retirement mother educator has really exhausted her resources. There was no physical violence, but she constantly break off and screamed. During the year we tried to give this mother additional days off, connected family assistants, provided additional assistance in the form of supervision, that is, professional consultations of psychologists. In addition, we organize intervisions for parent caregivers when they communicate and support each other. Such events are a must-see. This usually helps to restore the resource, and the violence stops. Unfortunately, we saw that mother had exhausted her resource. However, this was not an egregious case. Therefore, we terminated her contract because of her retirement.

We don't have severe beatings or sexual abuse of children. Also because (and this is an important nuance) that we have an open system. Where there is a double responsibility - both ours and the local authorities that create such families. That is, we control each other.

In addition, we are currently working on the creation of supervisory boards, which will include people from local communities with a good reputation. Transparency is a very important tool for protecting children.

In general, in the system "SOS Children's Towns Ukraine" monitoring of cases of violence is carried out constantly. A general report is made annually. The federation tests itself, that is, its national divisions. However, we are not immune from incidents of violence.

A organization from Norway recently commissioned additional investigations from an independent organization to investigate the status of some associations. Cases were identified where some irresponsible and sometimes criminal leaders of local organizations concealed the facts of violence or corruption. This happened in some countries in Africa and Asia that survived civil wars, very poor, without traditions of state improvement, with a very weak civil sector and a high tolerance for violence.

The investigation report will be published on June 7th. We do not hide this information, although it will contain information that is unpleasant for our organization. But the organization itself ordered the report in order to honestly look at its, so to speak, jambs.

The director of the organization apologized to the victims. Now we are talking about four countries where such cases have been identified. Perhaps there are more of them.

Of course, measures will be taken to remedy the situation. First of all, they will create independent bodies, appoint ombudsmen at children's townships. So that the system not only checks itself, but also has a certain independent oversight committee that can oversee the protection of children.

That is why "SOS Children's Towns Ukraine" places special emphasis on the prevention of all types of violence. Thanks to all our procedures for protection, openness and transparency, as well as a system of continuous training and retraining of both employees and children, we manage to minimize risks. Although, unfortunately, not to zero.

We do not take a child off the street to some kind of paradise. We are on the same streets where crimes are committed. We try to protect, control. And usually we succeed.

Unfortunately, in general, the situation with the protection of the rights of the child in Ukraine has deteriorated over the year. There are few statistics available to reveal the actual level of violence. But all estimates show that the situation of violence against children has worsened. This was led by the pandemic, and partly the impoverishment of the population caused by it, and the growth of psychological stress in families with limited mobility when the country was in quarantine. Last year, for example, 42,000 children from boarding schools were sent home without preparation. Some of the families where the children were returned were already socially degraded and could not provide them with normal conditions. There have been cases of violence or neglect to dangerous levels. Well, the boarding system remains closed. Several years ago, when there was a public debate about deinstitutionalization reform, administrations of institutions became more open and transparent. Now this discussion has come to naught. The boarding schools instantly felt that everything was returning to its former tracks and there was no need to worry about the rights of the child and compliance with the law. There remain sanatorium schools. And, perhaps, the highest risk is in boarding schools for children with disabilities. Transformations are postponed indefinitely.

I would like to focus the attention of the heads of the new UTC who do not understand the importance of supporting families, the risk of domestic violence and are often guided by stereotypes - they say, these are family matters, and I have to deal with asphalt, lighting, medical institutions. If society does not work with vulnerable families and continues to ignore these problems, then very soon we will get terrible cases of violence, murder of children, neglect. And this will be a shameful stain and a heavy burden on the masses, which will allow such a thing. Such a threat will continue to loom unless communities begin to build support networks for vulnerable families and prevent domestic violence.

Yes, they often lack specialists. But there is such a term - "grass root", referring to community initiatives on the ground. Small public initiatives that exist in every village, microdistrict, etc. - Women's clubs, informal mutual aid circles, charitable organizations - have a huge potential for self-help and problem identification. Local governments can cooperate with such initiatives. They can attract professional public organizations and charitable foundations that already have experience. We are also ready to join the work with vulnerable families through the social order form. Communities can also involve community organizations involved in child abuse prevention.

Well, you need to change your culture. It is not a shame to intervene in a family to protect a child from violence. Ashamed to pass by. The child has rights. And as neighbors, as compatriots, we must take responsibility for it, if for some reason the parents do not take it upon themselves.

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