Tanya* had a baby when she was 15. She stayed together with the father of her child for a year. Then the man waived his fatherly responsibilities and kicked Tanya and her son out of the apartment.
The young woman went back to live with her father and stepmother, and soon placed her son Roma in an orphanage.
She is now 17 years old, and her baby has spent almost a year in a state-run institution.
When raising her son Tanya had to face a lot of difficulties. The girl would often clash with her stepmother. She studied poorly, and college teachers considered Tanya incapable of learning. She skipped a lot of classes and she fell behind on many subjects.
As Tanya had a baby before reaching legal majority, the guardianship authorities took her and her son under supervision, and then, taking into account her dire circumstances, suggested that Tanya should place her boy in a children’s home for a year. Tanya agreed and took Roma to an orphanage. The young mother would almost never visit her son and, according to the staff of the institution, and she did not take any interest in him. The guardianship authority considered the situation hopeless. The experts were sure that the baby would be better off in the children’s home.
Meanwhile, though, Tanya was attending meetings at the parenting club organized by “Our Children” Fund, where she met Kristina Yakusevich, who is a psychologist.
From the Fund’s many years experience, we know that the vast majority of mothers miss their children who are in orphanages, and yearn to be with them. For various reasons, they cannot raise children, so they begin to relive their own grief and failure through destructive behaviour. Tanya was no exception.
As it turned out, Tanya grew up in a family of addicts. Her parents were alcoholics. When they were little, Tanya and her brother would be regularly taken to social rehabilitation centres. their parents were restricted in their rights. They would be reinstated in them from time to time. The children would be sent back home, but the situation kept repeating. Tanya and her younger brother lived in state-run rehabilitation centres for more than three years in total!
Unfortunately, girls from struggling families often begin early sexual life. It is because they experience a constant need for physical intimacy and try to prove to themselves that they can be loved and needed by at least someone. Sometimes, as in the case of Tanya, this leads to pregnancy.
We found out that Tanyahas never been in psychotherapy, though she had an extremely low self-esteem. In the family, the girl would be constantly rebuked and never praised. After Roma’s birth, her parents built up such a feeling of guilt and shame in her that she could hardly deal with them on her own. So Tanya followed the well-trodden path she knew well from childhood: bitterness and indifference to everything.
Our psychologist took the opportunity to work on Tanya’s case in the framework of Stick Together program. With the support of the specialist, Tanya gradually grew through the feelings of resentment towards her parents, reflected on anxiety and the sense of personal boundaries, emotions and affection. In addition to working in the parenting club, the psychologist held about 30 personal counselling sessions with Tanya.
In the course of this period, the girl has changed: she started to dress more neatly and take care of her appearance. She improved her performance in college and is now taking an active part in her college life; she stopped being rude to teachers, and learned to find compromise solutions. She improved relationships with her father and stepmother. Tanya learned to plan her day and build long-term plans. In the summer she got a job as a seamstress, decided to transfer to the correspondence department and combine work with study.
And most importantly, Tanya began visiting her son every weekend! As it turned out, the girl had not visited the child not because she was indifferent to him, but because she was not able to build a dialogue with the staff of the institution, and did not know anything about her maternal rights.
Guardianship authorities were sceptical of Tanya’s decision to take her son out of the orphanage. The main argument against this was that Tanya is a minor and cannot cope without full support.
Therefore, the psychologist of the fund contacted the protégé’s parents. Tanya’s father agreed to help his daughter with groceries, redecorated his three-room apartment and allowed his daughter and her grandson to live in it. Her mother promised to help pay utility bills. We also involved the assistance of the Fund’s lawyer, who explained Tanya’s rights to her and explained how to receive child support from the child's father.
At the end of summer, little Roma returned from the orphanage to his mother. Now they are together again, as it should be.
* The names have been changed.
When Alyosha was 11, he unexpectedly ended up in an orphanage, while his mother stayed at home.
The Administration of the school where the boy studied sent a complaint against his mother Svetlana to the guardianship authorities. She was accused of aggressive behavior towards her son. The guardianship officers came to Svetlana’s house to inspect the situation in the family and decided that the latter was unsatisfactory. The child was taken away from the family and sent to the Safonovo orphanage, which is 140 km away from his mother.
Our position in such cases is to keep the children in touch with their parents, help them survive the separation and, if there is no risk to their lives and health, eliminate the reason for separation and return the children back home. All children who get to the Safonovo orphanage (located in the Smolensk region and patronized by our organization) get consultations with psychologists of our fund.
Similarly, in Alyosha’s case, the fund’s psychologist Alina started working with him. The results of tests and conversations held with the boy showed his strong emotional attachment to his mother. The situation in the family, of course, was not ideal: Alyosha and his mother lived in very modest conditions and often had to move because they did not have their own housing. According to Alyosha, there were quarrels in the family but his mother never caused him physical or psychological harm.
When the psychologist began working with Alyosha, she also got to know the boy’s mother. To do this, Alina traveled 140 km to a remote village to meet with Svetlana. It turned out that Svetlana herself had had a hard life. Her parents drank heavily and cared for their daughter very little. Suffice it to say that her education was limited to 1 (!) year at school. As a result, Svetlana has poorly developed social skills, she is infantile, and not confident in her own abilities. It is difficult for her to interact with the outside world, especially to protect herself and her son.
However, the woman coped with raising Alyosha. The boy’s physical and intellectual development is fine, and, as it turned out, he is very attached to his mother. It is worth mentioning that being so far away from the boy did not stop Svetlana from regularly visiting her child in an orphanage for a year and a half. It is very difficult for a resident of a remote village to do it without a personal car.
Our psychologist conducted more than 20 personal consultations with Svetlana, including testing her for the level of aggression and emotional attachment to the child. All test results are normal.
After thoroughly familiarizing themselves with the case of Alyosha and his mother, the specialists of the Charity Fund “Our children” began to work actively to bring the boy back to his family. There was a plan to remove the restriction of the mother in parental rights through the court. But the orphanage in which Alyosha was placed opposed this plan and filed a lawsuit to deprive Svetlana of her parental rights.
We did not see another option but standing at the family’s side. It was clear that the woman would lose the trial without our support. Any interaction with the state system was a challenge for her.
Thus, our psychologist Alina appeared at the trial as a witness for Svetlana defense and provided the court with the results of psychological examinations. Ludmila, the fund’s legal counsel, became the woman’s lawyer. She defended the interests of the woman, helped Svetlana formulate her answers, and prepared her for her appearance in court.
As a result, the court sided with Svetlana and removed the woman’s restriction on parental rights! So, very soon Alyosha will return home.
“In such situations, psychological support for the family provided after its reunion is also important. In the case of this family, while the boy spent a year and a half away from home, his mother got used to living alone. Of course, she continued to love her son and wait for each meeting with him, but partially still managed to wean from the child. Therefore, we will definitely continue having meetings with this family, and if necessary, we will consult Svetlana by phone. It is important that both Alyosha and his mother know that they can always ask for help from the “Our Children” charity fund,” says the fund’s psychologist Alina Lebedeva.
In Russia there are many families that need help, but it is not always about the direct financial support. They need professional support in the development of their social skills and in improvement of their financial and legal literacy. They also need assistance in organizing life in difficult rural conditions. Financial resources are needed for integrated and systematic work with crisis families – to pay specialists, to cover their transportation costs, to organize assistance in the repair of family housing, etc.
Please support the “Stick Together” program of the charity fund “Our Children”. Any donation you make will help families like Svetlana’s and Alyosha’s to remain united.
Anna* was raising a son and a daughter as a single mom. A few years ago, she lost her sight due to head trauma, but she managed to run her household and take care of her children. When her son Kolya went to first grade, they faced some difficulties. He wasn’t doing very well at school and his mom could not help him with homework.
This way Anna decided to ask for help from the government and went to her regional Social Services office. She wanted a tutor to come to her house and help her son with homework. But Social Services decided another way, and the family was registered with Child Protection Services, where they strongly recommended that Anna take her 7-year-old son to an orphanage. They said the child would be better off this way.
Kolya spent one year at a Children’s House. This is the maximum period for the child to stay at an orphanage while parents retain their custody.
Over the year, the family situation has not changed. The mother has not gotten her sight back and she was still unable to help her son with school homework. The condition of their house got worse and required repair, which they could not afford. And living conditions is an important factor in permission for the child to come back to the family. Child Protection Services started the process of limiting Anna’s custody of her son.
Fortunately, by that moment, the boy had gotten into the orphanage supervised by DetiNashi Fund. Our team went to meet Anna and see if the orphanage the only option for her family.
Pavel and Alina, the Fund’s Social Counselors noticed a very positive emotional climate in the family and a strong emotional bond between the mom and her children. We took action. We helped Anna get a consult with an ophthalmologist at a regional medical center. The doctor confirmed that the sight would not come back. He recommended that Anna calls the regional office of Russia’s Society of the Blind for a referral to a rehabilitation center, where the people who lost their sight can master new trades, learn to navigate the surrounding world, run a household, etc. We also assisted with minor house repair (this was the Child Services’ condition for the boy to get back home). We bought wallpapers, new plumbing fixtures and paid for the handyman’s work.
As a result, Kolya returned back home.
The boy started a special education class, and he is now doing well in all subjects, learning at his own pace. The teacher agreed to help him with homework. In Autumn, Anna’s daughter went to first grade and she is doing great.
We appreciate the help of donors supporting Stick Together Program. Join us! We can help children without taking them out of their families.
Today, we are going to share two stories how “Deti Nashi” (Our Children) Fund’s specialists help families with own and adopted children overcome difficult life circumstances and render professional support for the families to restore good relations and understanding.
Anya has a mom and dad, nevertheless, in Winter 2018, she found herself at an orphanage in Shatalovo village, Smolensk region. This was caused by troubles in her family: her parents had started getting into fights and drinking more often, and they both had lost their jobs. Things were really heating up. This left an indelible stamp on Anya, so her grades went down and she stated lagging behind in school.
After Anya got into the orphanage, our social workers Alina and Pavel went to see the family and find out about the root cause of the conflicts. Together, they worked out an algorithm to help the parents solve the problems that had piled up and get the girl back to the family. They worked together: social workers focused on the parents and the orphanage psychologist – on the girl. Their hard work let to great results – Anya got back into the family in summer, 2018, even earlier than expected. We are still keeping in touch with this family and continuing supervision.
Kira is 13. In Autumn 2018, she left Safonovo Children’s House – she got adopted.
Her foster mom really wants to raise her, but she has lots of fears and doubts. Kristina, the psychologist of “Deti Nashi” Fund helped her overcome those fears. She did not try to convince her, but helped her see the situation from different angles and evaluate her family’s resources.
It’s been a few months since Kira has been living in the family. The adaptation period is not always smooth for Kira and her foster mom, so Kristina is keeping in touch and ready to help. Most importantly, both Kira and her foster mom want the same – to be together. And we hope that they are going to make it!
“Deti Nashi” Fund pays for the support of psychologists and social workers that work in Stick Together project. The main goal of the program is to bring children back to their birth families, restore family ties of the children living in orphanages, support families finding themselves in hard situations, and help foster families.
We appreciate your support of “Family to every child” project.
Artem’s mother was an alcoholic and her parental rights were terminated. The boy never saw his father. For the most of his life he was living under the care of his aunt. Unfortunately, the aunt divorced her husband and started an active love life. Many times the boy has witnessed the noisy quarrels between his aunt and her new boyfriends. During one of the scandals, neighbors called the police. The police informed child protective services and the care agreement was terminated. The boy was sent to the Safonovo orphanage. The aunt kept in touch with Artem but war reluctant to take him back home.
At the orphanage, Artem began to work with the psychologist from the charity fund “Our Children”. The boy took an interest in the “Book of life”- a methodology for rehabilitating children and reconstructing their family history. Due to this work, the boy found out and recorded a lot of important information about his parents and his family in general. A psychologist helped Artem to go through family loss, better adjust to orphanage life and accept the fact that he won’t live with his aunt in the near future. This work also helped him to see and accept the opportunity of getting into the foster family.
In the spring one foster family from Bryansk was interested in adopting Artem. Several times they took the boy to spend time with them during the holidays and then Artem agreed to move to their house.
We hope that Artem will never return to the orphanage and that he will feel loved and important in his new family.
The «Deti Nashi» (Our Children) Charity Fund pays for the work of psychologists and the “Homelike” project’s social counselors. They look for relatives and support children’s communication with them. Please support the project, and if possible, start a small regular donation.
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