In 2008, September 30, which is designated in the church calendar as the Day of Vira, Nadiya, Lyubov (Ukrainian names, that also mean: Faith, Hope, and Love – translator’s note), and their mother Sofia, became also the Day of Adoption in Ukraine. This year we celebrate it for the tenth time. 

How it happened

Exactly one year ago, there was published a book by Lyudmyla Volynets “Detstvo@ukr.net About children, whom storks bring to the state”. The author is the head of the secretariat of the inter-factional deputy association “Protection of the rights of the child ‒ the priority of the state”, which has been systematically examining issues of social protection and protection of children’s rights for more than 20 years, describes how in 2005-2010, the system of care and guardianship of children was reformed. By that time, Lyudmyla Volynets held positions from the State Department’s Director for Adoption and Protection of the Rights of the Child to the Deputy Minister for Family, Youth, and Sports.

In 2005, international adoption in Ukraine was significantly more important than national, and alternative forms of placement children, deprived of parental care, in the family, were constantly accompanied by scandals. For that year, foreigners adopted 2,156 children (of which 95% were up to three years old, and as a rule, healthy). Ukrainians adopted only 1419 children. There are already… 131 foster families and family-type children’s homes.

Therefore, the state had two tasks. First ‒ to improve the internal adoption and popularize it, and, recognizing the social importance for society, equate the fact of adoption with the fact of the birth of a child in the family. Second ‒ to reduce international adoption due to the national adoption and the development of family forms of the organization of children.

There was a large number of thematic social advertising ‒ commercials and programs on television and radio, devoted to adoption and alternative forms of raising a child in the family. Large cities were packed with advertising and dappled with billboards content, such as “Take the child to the family”. Perhaps, social advertising was not too high-quality in terms of pictures, but there was a lot of it, it was conspicuous, and made people think.

The President Viktor Yushchenko announced 2008 as the year of supporting the national adoption and other forms of the family upbringing of children, deprived of parental care, Ukrainians adopted 2,066 children, the number of foster families and family-type children’s homes increased to 2,351, and international adoptions dropped to 1,587.

A sociological survey was conducted. The willingness to take a child for the upbringing in the family was high. The main obstacles for this were: 1) own children and the lack of the possibility of adopting more children; 2) age (people over 45 years); 3) insufficient financial support from the state.

In 2009, the introduction of one-off financial assistance for adoption, like with the birth of a child in the family, as well as social vacations for parents to adopt the adopted child, increased the number of national adoptions to a record 2,381 per year.

What happened?

Ten years have passed. “Annually about 10,000 children in Ukraine remain without parental care,“ said the Minister of the Ministry of Social Policy Andriy Reva. “Such a situation is caused, in particular, by the irresponsible attitude of parents towards the performance of their duties, the use of alcohol by parents, drugs, cruel treatment of the child, and other family difficulties. This category of the population needs qualified social support in society, especially to prevent the upbringing of children outside the family environment.”

Yes, indeed, the word “deinstitutionalization”, popular for the last three years, means not just the reforming of the boarding system, but first of all the development of social services, that is, firstly, the preventive measures aimed at protecting and supporting the family with children, turned out to be in difficult life circumstances, and only then we do something with orphanages. Unfortunately, for three years now, everything basically comes down to talking about the harm of orphanages and the services are not being created. “The more often at meetings, in reports and discussions, the terms “family forms of upbringing”, “the right to the family”, “deinstitutionalization”, etc. sound,”  writes Lyudmyla Volynets on her Facebook page.  ”The fewer foster families and family-type children’s houses remain in Ukraine, the number of adoptions and children under guardianship is decreasing”.

What’s going on? Is the statistics wrong or activities and programs are not about that? Complaints of families are increasing, and reports on assistance to them indicate a high efficiency. There are quite a few examples, where one organization is working on something that the other is struggling with. The issue is disheveled…

…Alogical changes in the order of adoption of children are proposed for approval.  The offers to rename family-type children’s homes into host families are more persistent. What and how much should be done for this, and in general, is it worth doing at all ‒ it wasn’t investigated.

Last year, on the eve of the Adoption Day, the Ministry of Social Policy decided to establish a Directorate for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. It has been created. A loud contest for the position was held. The general director has been appointed. This year, on the eve of the Adoption Day, the Directorate for the Protection of the Rights of the Child is going to be merged with another. The Department on these issues got new powers and the number of employees was reduced.”

In the information field, very little has been said about the national adoption and the development of family forms of upbringing as a priority. Other, far less effective forms such as patronage and mentoring came to the fore. Especially at the regional level. But, if the issue of adoption and foster families is not heard, then, accordingly, it loses its relevance. Deinstitutionalization, development of the social services market are terms that are complicated for mass perception.

People who adopt the child are not trained. Many candidates are not ready for the adoption process internally. They have a certain, their own, image of a child that they cannot meet anywhere.

In addition, today, 90% of the more than 100 thousand children in institutions are not deprived of parental care, which would mean that they can be adopted. Such latent orphanhood becomes the norm due to the fact that cases of deprivation of parental rights are considered by courts on a residual principle, and often do not reach the courts because of the negligence of children’s services .

Orphanages don’t want to send children to families. On the contrary, they try to take them out of families to save funding. Unfortunately, there are a lot of such examples. One of the last is a shocking story with the Tsebrykivka United Territorial Community (Odesa region) when children from low-income families were taken to the orphanage directly from school only because their families are poor. The most terrible thing in this story is that the key role in the events was played by the social work specialist, whose main mission and task is to help families with children, who find themselves in difficult life circumstances prevent the withdrawal of children from families. Under the threat of deprivation of parental rights, people were forced to write statements about the placement of their children in the orphanage. Thanks to the active public, the operative actions of the police and the service for children of the District State Administration, the children were returned to their parents.

Back in April 2017, draft Resolution No. 6345 “On the dismissal of Reva A.O. from the post of Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine” by Deputy Y. Pavlenko was registered in the Verkhovna Rada. Subsequently, in June 2018, the collective of the MPs proposed to recognize the work of the Ministry of Social Policy as unsatisfactory and also to dismiss the Minister Reva A.O. (draft Resolution No. 8451) from his post.

On September 6, both resolutions were reviewed and supported by the Committee on Social Policy, Employment, and Pensions. On September 18, the Verkhovna Rada received the submission of the Committee for consideration of both resolutions.

According to Y. Pavlenko, the main reasons that prompted him to make such a proposal were violations of the rights of orphans and children, deprived of parental care; children, affected by war and armed conflicts; unsatisfactory activities of the Ministry in the process of decentralizing powers on children from the RSA (Regional State Administrationstranslator’s note) to the UTC (United Territorial Communitiest.n.).

And if today the order of granting children the status of victims as a result of military actions and armed conflict has been fundamentally changed, other problems remain relevant. In addition, new problems were added.

The number of families that raise children is also decreasing. Over the past three years, the number of foster families has decreased by more than 300 (at the beginning of 2015 ‒ 4,123 families, at the beginning of 2018 ‒ 3,677 families (minus 12%). The growth of family-type children’s houses by 101 families does not solve the problem.

Leaving of children the host families and family-type children’s homes almost equaled to the placement of children (3,933 children were left in three years and 4,590 children were placed). By 2017, 1,652 children have been placed, and 1,436 children have left, more than 500 of them ‒ before reaching the age of 18.

As a result of the numerous mistakes in the work of the Ministry, the number of children, who die because of parents’ oversight is growing. Yurii Pavlenko writes on his Facebook page: “In response to my request,  the Ministry of Social Policy informed me of the terrible deaths of children in the host families, family-type children’s houses, under guardianship. Over the past year and a half ‒ 42 child deaths! Two thirds of these children died as a result of suicides, murders, accidents. This is unprecedented statistics. There is no corresponding response from the Ministry.

As for the decentralization and delegation of authority on children from the RSA to the UTC. The illiterate activities of the Ministry led to the fact that out of almost 700 UTCs, only about 50 UTCs took up the responsibility for children’s issues. More than 1 million children living on the territory of UTC do not have adequate authority bodies to protect their rights.

I expect the audit that the Chamber of Accounts is conducting to my request, to be completed; it is about studying the legality of spending the subvention funds from the state budget to purchase housing for orphans and children, deprived of parental care in 2017”.

Unfortunately, we must state that objective and subjective factors have led to the fact that the number of children adopted by Ukrainians in the last two or three years has significantly decreased. Despite the fact that there is a complicated and unstable social and economic situation in the country, Ukrainians express a sufficiently high willingness to take a child to their family, often older, and sometimes not more than one, while less and less inclined to preserve the secrecy of adoption, which is not officially canceled in Ukraine.

By Hanna Drozd

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