Foster families find strength in UNICEF and partners
Nataliia and her foster children feared for the future when they fled their home as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine
Five-year-old Izabella lives in a foster home with five other children. Like millions in Ukraine, her world fell apart with the outbreak of the full-scale war in February 2022, when she and her foster family were forced to flee from the Kharkivska region to a village in the west of the country.
Nataliia, her foster mother, says she feared for her children.
“The explosions were loud and the walls on our fourth floor shook. The war has already driven us out of our home twice”
Nataliia and her husband’s fostering journey first began in 2014. Izabella arrived in 2022 – but war shattered her newfound happiness.
Overnight, life far from home became a struggle.
“We arrived with one bag and started from scratch – financial difficulties, health problems, education,” says Nataliia. “And since we have children with special needs, it was even more difficult.”
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) supports vulnerable families like Nataliia’s that have been forced to move to Western Ukraine due to hostilities in their home regions, offering financial and social assistance.
Olha Flenko is one of 25 social work specialists working in the Lvivska and Zakarpatska regions with UNICEF’s support, assisting vulnerable families and children in difficult life circumstances. She helped to enrol Izabella, who has special needs, in a new kindergarten in their new village.
Nataliia is grateful for the assistance.
“Enrolling Izabella in a kindergarten where she is provided with an assistant and proper attention is one of the successes we achieved while supporting this family. We also helped the family apply for financial assistance from UNICEF”
“Olha has become our home sun. She often calls us to ask, ‘How are you?’ It is nice to have such a dear person caring about us. We are invited to interesting workshops by UNICEF and the Ridni Charitable Foundation, as well as to a training for mothers who are educators, which inspired me a lot. Together, we will handle it”
In order to receive support from the social assistance programme, families can contact a social service centre, administrative service centre, social protection centre or children's service in their local area.
“I believe that the biggest success of our support was strengthening the bond between the mother and the children,” says Olha. “We have also managed to resolve legal issues, arrange benefits and enrol the children in a school and kindergarten. I really want this family to do well because the foster parents really care about each child as if they were their own.”
UNICEF's comprehensive social support services reach around 4,000 children as part of a project supported by the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA). The goal is to create more opportunities for education and development, as well as to increase security and peace of mind.