Andriy Haidamashko: "Foster families are equally advantageous both for the child and the state"
Interview with Andriy Haidamashko, Director of Child Protection Program in UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Ukraine on the boarding school system alternatives in the country.
During 2009, foster families and family-type homes in Ukraine adopted 1895 children. Thus, as of January 1, 2010, 8119 children are being brought up in foster families and family-type children's homes that is six times more than in 2005 (1313 children). These preliminary data were released by the State Department for Adoption and Children Rights Protection of the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport of Ukraine last year.
Ex-Minister of Family, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, commenting on the above results in 2009, said: "This is 14-15 times more than the number of children that were adopted by foster families and family-type homes in 2004-2005, - before the reform of the orphan protection system, when such form of family upbringing adopted 120-130 children per year. Total number of children brought up in foster families and family-type children's homes exceeds the number of children today living in boarding schools or orphanages.
– Mr. Andrew, obviously there is an alternative to boarding schools. Please explain how these new forms of parenting differ from adoption?
– Foster families or family-type children's houses - is the delegation of the right to bring up children by the state. When children get into foster family, they do not change a name or a patronymic. They legally remain individual entities and still may be adopted. The person who brings them up, stops receiving money for the child only after the kid reaches 18 years old.
In fact, foster families and family-type homes - is a state order for parenting. In a word it is a parents’ job and they get money for it. Children may stay in foster families till they are 18 years old and in case of continued study in vocational and higher educational establishments of I-IV levels of accreditation – till graduation. Children may not remain in foster families after they reached 23 years.
– Can any family be a foster one?
– A family or an individual who is not married and volunteered for bringing up and living together with up to four orphans or children deprived of parental care may be a foster family. A family may adopt HIV positive children but only after the relevant conclusions of the guardianship and health care bodies. Five to ten children can be brought up in family-type children's homes.
– Does one take into consideration living conditions of future parents?
– Sure. Adoptive parents take children to their own residential areas, if it meets the sanitary and living conditions. Another obligatory requirement is a certificate on the health of parents, on criminal record, and sufficient income. Both adoptive parents, and parents who arrange family-type homes, receive monthly from the state social assistance amounting to two life cost for each child. Foster children have benefits and state guarantees provided by law for orphans and children deprived of parental care.
– We hear complaints about specific children from orphanages very often. Lots of people are not pleased: employers who hire graduates from boarding schools, neighbours who did not like antisocial behaviour of such children.
– Things, happening in boarding schools now, are really, really sad. In such schools kids are not ready for independent life. They develop consumer-type behaviour. They wake up in the morning and do what they want; got a breakfast – that’s good. They have their own school inside where no one really checks them. Those who are stronger, they survive and achieve something in life, but they are usually very few. In a word they lose a possibility to learn, however there are a lot of smart kids that should be taken out of boarding schools.
– And how do such children behave in a foster family?
– They very quickly get used their own rooms, their computer, and other stuff. However, they don’t have enough time, because you have to go to school, do different home tasks. This is a psychological turning point for them. They had almost nothing in a boarding school though they had lots of time. However kids get accustomed very quickly and believe me, there is nothing more terrible for them, than going back to school.
In addition, foster children have the right to maintain personal contact with parents and other relatives, if it is not contrary to their interests and not prohibited by the court. Such forms of communication are determined by the guardianship bodies with the consent of the adoptive parents and centres of social services for families, children and young people.
– What is average age of children taken out by foster parents for upbringing?
– In most cases, parents tend to take very young children - aged 3-4 years. The problem starts from the age of 12, when the children have more or less formed identity - they can reject a foster family. However, parents may take these children too, since they may need peers for their children.
– Even rough calculation of boarding school expenditures shows that they use much more money than a foster family. Nonetheless, the effect of staying in the family is the best for children.
– Here are some indicative figures. For example, 856.357.000 UAH has been spent after 2008 for maintenance of institutions for orphans and children deprived of parental care, including 230.507.700 UAH - directly for the needs of pupils. Thus, 72.7 UAH is allocated per day for one child in boarding schools. Only 6.8 UAH out of this money goes directly for children needs. The rest of the money is spent for maintenance needs, in particular - salaries, utilities, repairs.
For comparison: in family-type children's homes or foster families - 54.9 UAH is spent for a child per day including 40.6 UAH going directly for the child's needs -. So we see that foster families are much more advantageous both for a child and for the state.