05 December 2016

100,000 children in Ukraine confined to Soviet-style orphanage system that resists reform

New research, published by Hope and Homes for Children, reveals the extent to which Ukraine’s vast system of orphanages and other institutions is failing vulnerable children and resisting reform.

There are more than 100,000 children confined to 663 orphanages and other residential facilities in Ukraine – one of the highest rates of institutionalisation in Europe.

Now Hope and Homes for Children has carried out the first comprehensive audit of the system to understand how and why children are sent to institutions, the conditions they experience and the impact this has on their development and their life-chances.

Hope and Homes for Children’s CEO, Mark Waddington, said “I cannot overstate how important this audit is as a major tool in our advocacy work. It provides us with the hard evidence and data to drive change to the system at national and local levels”

The National Audit of the Child Protection System was supported with significant pro bono hours and funding from the law firm, Clifford Chance.

During the study we collected the data from 663 residential facilities for children administered by three government ministries, as well as information about the availability of family support services across the country. In addition, we carried out an in-depth study of ten different types of institutions in relation to their impact on children’s rights.

Our findings are stark:

• child protection in Ukraine still relies on a vast institutional network, the size of a city, where children live in isolation from the rest of society, condemned to arbitrary regulations and impersonal routines

• institutional care remains the most common response by the authorities to children whose own families are struggling to care for them, largely because of poverty and disability

• the system is not reforming, it is stagnating with orphanage directors re-categorising their institutions in a process of “fictional reform”

• the system is self-perpetuating, with the job-security of its 68,000 employees taking precedence over the best interests of children.

“In terms of the attitude toward children and the understanding of their needs, little has changed in Ukraine’s Child Protection system since Soviet times”, says our Ukraine Country Director, Halyna Postoliuk.

“There have been some fragmented improvements but overall Governments have failed to lay the foundations that are needed to prevent family break-down and ensure an integrated approach to protecting children’s rights”.

The findings of the Audit were officially published in Kiev on Friday 02 December 2016, at an event co-organised by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and attended by the Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman.

Speaking at the event, Mr Groysman said, “The practice of institutional care belongs in the past. We need to develop new mechanisms to help children move into the adult world prepared, healthy and protected. Our task is to preserve the family and keep children in families. Investing in children and their development, rather than in the walls of institutions, will be a top priority for the Government in relation to child protection”.

Our CEO, Mark Waddington, responded, saying “This level of political support is unprecedented particularly on an issue relating to children, indeed the most vulnerable and marginalised children in society. This is hugely significant for the work of Hope and Homes for Children and for the 100,000 children confined to institutional care in Ukraine”.