Child Homelessness And Orphanage Care
One outcome of the economic upheavals of the post-Soviet period is a great increase in the number of homeless children. The Russian government and UNESCO estimate that in 2001, there were up to three million homeless children in Russia (Harrigan 2001; Tretyak 2001). Some are children of parents who have died or been imprisoned, some are abandoned, and some have run away from conflict-, abuse-, and alcohol-ridden homes. To survive, many become involved in begging, petty crime, and prostitution. Drug use and suicide are also serious problems. Russian children's charities and organizations such as the U.S.-based Love's Bridge and the Red Cross are working to provide shelters and other services to homeless children, but the need still far outweighs available help.
Approximately 1.5 percent of all Russian children are orphaned (Facts and Figures 2001). Between 600,000 and 700,000 children (90% of whom have a living parent) live in orphanages. Concern about orphanage conditions came to a head when Human Rights Watch (1998) published reports describing inhumane care in understaffed and under-funded institutions. Although the quality of care varies from orphanage to orphanage, the report exposed poor living and learning conditions and stigmatization based on notions about the heritability of mental deficiencies and social incompetence. A network of smaller family-like homes for orphans is in its infancy but holds promise of higher quality care. A significant proportion of children are now adopted by foreigners, many of whom are resident in the United States.
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JEAN M. ISPA
JULIAN G. ELLIOTT