Dec 30, 2020

Roma. Good intentions should not harm a child

A ten-year-old boy Roma was put into a social rehabilitation center in times of need for his family. Together with his parents and a four-year-old sister, the boy lives in a rural area in Smolensk region, where there is no stable job for adults. The family survives on part-time jobs and thanks to their meager household. The parents placed Roma in an extended daycare group at a social center, so that after school classes, the son was under the supervision of teachers, could have meals and ride a school bus free of charge. In the evenings, by verbal agreement between the parents and the center management, the boy returned home.

That was not a problem until the entire world went into self-isolation due to COVID and the social rehabilitation center closed the doors for the children who lived in it, and at the same time for Roma, who did not live in the center. It appeared that the children were not allowed to leave the institution and the parents were not allowed to see their children, even outside. All, the parents knew, was that the situation, as if under siege, could last until November.

In no time, the stressful situation affected Roma's behavior. Suddenly being cut off from his family, he did not know how to express his fear and protest. Hidden negative emotions quickly found a way out in the boy's aggressive behavior.

Alexandra, Roma's mother, is a modest, quiet woman. A few times she tried her best to convince the social center management to return Roma home, but to no avail, which made her feel even more helpless. In addition, the center stuff dropped hints that the family would not be able to get Roma ready for school by the beginning of the school year without their support: the boy needs a school uniform, shoes, sportswear, backpack, school supplies. Truly speaking, the family did not have the money for the purchases.

In desperation, the woman approached Our Children Fund with a request to assist in returning her son back to the family.

The Fund's psychologists provided Alexandra with a psychological assistance as it was important to overcome guilt and strengthen her parental responsibility. Legal consultations also helped Alexandra to muster up her strength to be firm when communicating with the social rehabilitation center management and to defend her position.

The fund provided the family with clothes for Roma and at the end of September, the family received a laptop for temporary use in case of distance learning and for Roma’s current homework, which is often asked at school to be done on a computer.

Now Roma is with his parents and sister. The Fund continues patronizing the family, primarily, by providing consultations from specialists who help Roma's parents to believe in themselves and become stronger.

 

Families in difficult life situations live next to us. It is important to help them on time and correctly, so that children in times of crisis for the family stay together with their nearest and loved ones; to prevent troubles so that the family would be able to raise children on its own.

The impact of our professional support for families is that children do not join the ranks of orphans with living parents, when their parents are willing and able to raise them.

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Sep 8, 2020

Angelina's long way home

Angelina's long way home
Angelina's long way home

Angelina was separated from her mother for two years. In childhood, when each day is a little life, even a year feels like an eternity.

All throughout those painful days, weeks, months, the girl lived in a state-run orphanage while her mother was in prison. This is when the specialists of the Foundation began to work with Angelina, found out the circumstances of her life and outlined the opportunity for returning her to the family. Now everything depended on the girl's mother.

When working with families in crisis, we appreciate the parents' desire to keep the family together. Our specialists communicate with a variety of families experiencing different vulnerable situations, and not all the parents are willing to raise their children. Helping to mend a stove, making home renovations, going through the paperwork and documents - all this helps the family only if the adults want to be parents. Fortunately for Angelina, her mother had a great desire to raise her child as she maintained affection for her daughter.

Having been released from prison Angelina's mother Lyudmila got actively involved in the process of returning her daughter home. Together with Lyudmila, our social educator Kristina Umnikhina developed an action plan to meet the requirements of the Child Protection Services. With the assistance of the Foundation Lyudmila got a job, made renovations in the house, bought a refrigerator and other household items. She regularly called Angelina and visited her at the orphanage which is 300 kilometers away from home.

The mother and daughter were counting the days until the end of the bad streak in their lives, but when everything seemed to be over and the time had come to reunite and start a new life together another misfortune clouded the existence of this small family. The Child Protection Services had filed a lawsuit to deprive Lyudmila of her parental rights before she could get her daughter out of the orphanage. The mother was charged with unwillingness to take her daughter out of the institution.

At this stage Lyudmila Dergacheva, the Foundation lawyer, got involved in Lyudmila’s story. With her help, Lyudmila set up a counterclaim demanding that the child be returned legally. Lyudmila won the court case and in January, after the court decision came into legal force, the woman was to take her daughter from the orphanage. By that time the girl had almost lost her patience: she had packed her few belongings to leave the orphanage as soon as possible, but as in a bad dream her departure was delayed again.

The litigation dragged on: in response to the court's decision in favor of Lyudmila, the Child Protection Services filed an appeal with the court; more time passed and finally the regional court also dismissed the Child Protection Service’s claim to deprive Lyudmila of her parental rights. Inspired by the hope for an imminent reunion, Lyudmila and Angelina prepared for reunification again, but then due to the COVID pandemic the quarantine began, and State institutions including courts closed or limited their work. So, it became impossible to obtain documents in court, and the orphanage would not release the child without documents. Then the Foundation specialists addressed Natalya Aleksandrovna Mikhailova, the Ombudswoman for Children’s Rights in the Smolensk Region. The Ombudswoman’s intervention helped, and in May Angelina finally returned home to her mother!

At the moment the Foundation specialists continue supporting the family, helping the mother and daughter to understand each other better. Both of them really need the support, as they are learning to live together again. We believe that everything will work out for them and that joy will dwell in this house forever.

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May 14, 2020

Fight for the Right to Raise Her Daughter

In 2015, Natalya ended up in prison and her ten-year-old daughter Lena was placed in the Safonovsky orphanage. Fortunately, a year later, Lena’s elder adult sister was able to pick up the girl from the orphanage. This young woman took custody of Lena and took the girl to her place in Voronezh.

Of course, all the traumas this teen girl had gone through had a negative impact on her behavior. Lena's aggression, rudeness, unwillingness to learn actually veiled her fear and helplessness. The girl diligently built a wall between her inner self and those people who were nearby at that moment. The elder sister, yet inexperienced in raising children, could not cope with the “difficult” child and there was no one to help her. In the end, the woman refused the custody of her younger rebellion sister, so Lena returned to the state institution. This time it was the Voronezh social rehabilitation center.

Shortly after this happened, Natalya got out of the prison, however, this did not become a salvation for the 13-year-old girl either. Lena could not stay at her mother’s place for a long time since there were no normal living conditions and Natalya didn’t have a job. Moreover, the woman abused alcohol. Meanwhile, Lena turned out to be on her own, so she started glugging and skipping classes.

School absenteeism resulted in the fact that guardianship authorities drew attention to the family and recommended Natalya to send her daughter to an orphanage under an agreement. This is a frequent solution proposed by the state to families in difficult situations. Officials insisted that the orphanage was a temporary measure and that within a year Natalya would be able to get her life going and find a job so that there would be no obstacles to take the girl home. Natalya agreed and signed an agreement with the state. She also felt like that would be a better solution, primarily for her daughter. This is the way Lena ended up in the Safonovsky orphanage.

Psychologists of the Charity Fund “Our Children” (“Deti Nashi”), who work with the children raised at the Safonovsky orphanage, began to work with Lena in 2018. They helped the girl adapt in the orphanage and cope with a stressful situation through individual sessions. They helped Lena to re-experience the past in order to get over separation from her mother and the abandonment of her sister. Thanks to the support of psychologists, after a while Lena was able to accept a difficult situation and sort out her feelings.

During their sessions, our specialists noted Lena's steady attachment to her mother and the girl’s desire to live with her parent. The counselors of the Fund joined in, too. They contacted Natalya, discussed the situation with her and, together with the woman, made a plan for overcoming the crisis. Natalya tried her best to change her life for the better. She got formally employed by the same orphanage to be closer to her child. She put her old housing in order and went through coding therapy to stop drinking alcohol.

Not everything had worked out before the agreement expired, so the guardianship sent documents to the court to deprive Natalya of her parental rights.

At the trial, both daughter and mother insisted that they wanted to live together, but this small family could not win the case, although they had the support of the lawyer of the Fund. We helped Natalya file an appeal with a higher court trying to overturn the decision to deprive her of her parental rights. Unfortunately, the family also lost in the second instance court. Nonetheless, Natalya does not want to give up. We are currently getting prepared to defend Natalya’s parental rights in the Supreme Court and we are doing this together with Lena.

Each case in our practice is a labyrinth, and no one knows in advance whether there is a way out of it. We share responsibility for the result of working with the family. Our specialists provide families with their support: psychologists help people to believe in themselves, and counselors give instructions on ways to act in various situations and on the steps to be taken.

Our work is based on proven methods and on our own experience in such cases. We are inspired by the stories of families that have overcome crisis with our support and whose children grow up at home, in their own family.

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