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Legislative issues affecting Ukrainian vulnerable children

The horrible Russian invasion on Ukrainian soil continues. More and more armor is sent to Ukraine (tanks are on their way), and Russia is adjusting its industrial production to their military needs and strengthening the army. Every day hundreds of Ukrainian civilian men receive calls from their local military units requesting to join the armed forces. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The children in Ukraine remain the most vulnerable victims of this terrible war. The consequences of psychological traumas they are going through are hard to imagine. Our children services expert team invites sponsors to consider supporting at-risk children stuck in Ukraine through our assistance program:    https://helpchildreninukraine.org/

In this research article we proceed with our analysis of legislative history affecting the most vulnerable children in Ukraine. The authors of this assessment have visited most of the existing child care institutions, to include orphanages, children centers, foster care families and foster training centers in various regions of Ukraine. While the conditions of life for kids differ somewhat from one child center to another, the general life pattern of disadvantaged children allows for a general and very sad conclusion. With the socio-economic transformation of Ukraine since the 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, the situation in all types of child care institutions has aggravated significantly. The budget deficit has been increasing over the years leaving a big hole in the finance system of all types of children state institutions.

Naturally, one of the biggest issues leading to problems of orphans and other disadvantaged children in Ukraine is inadequate legislation. In previous articles we analyzed its legislative history starting with Ukraine adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on September 27, 1991. This Convention once again re-affirms the basic right for children to be raised in loving families – the only natural and all encompassing setting for child’s wellbeing. A massive program of development and support of foster families (FF) and family type homes (FHT) was launched in Ukraine fifteen years later, in 2005. The then President Victor Yushchenko in his Decree # 1086/2005 of July 11, 2005 “On Priority Measures as to Protection of Children’s Rights” challenged the system of financing of Family Type Homes and Foster Families. Before the Decree articles gain full implementation force, after amending other related legislative pieces the funds for supporting Family-Type Homes (FTH) and Foster Families (FF) are theoretically made available on the local level, within the Rayon (district) or national education budget. The composition of the committee in essence includes: 1. Chairman of the Committee, whose main job is Deputy Head of Rayon State Administration on Humanitarian Affairs 2. Secretary of the Committee, the inspector of Department of Education (DOE), who is responsible for collecting all documents and materials related to the individual case before the Committee, thus having large powers to influence the decision of the Committee 3. Service for Minors Local Representative. If the Guardianship Committee so chooses, its Chairman has the right to authorize funds from rayon education budgets to support family type homes under Cabinet Ministers Decree #564 (initiating and describing alternative methods of caring for orphans).

However, they are not obliged to do so having the final word over where the child is destined to go. Since the Rayon State Administrations presently do not have specific line item for this purpose in their budgets, Heads of local Rayon State Administration and their deputies tend to be “economical” towards their own local budgets by making decisions to send social and biological orphans to state orphanages instead of identifying funds to support a FTH or FF. Their logic is simple: state orphanages are funded by oblast and state level ANYWAY, the funding level is usually not based on the exact number of children in each orphanage. Thus, local authorities making the decision of where to send a social or biological orphan do not “lose” financially ONLY if the child is sent to the state orphanage instead of FF or FTH. Given financial constraints of today’s Ukraine, even the progressive thinking officials (let alone those who can’t care less about “somebody’s” children or do not understand institutionalization consequences) will decide to choose the orphanage.

All parties – – NGOs, governmental experts, professional parents of FTHs/FFs both in the capital of Kyiv and regions agree that the major problem of the legislative system pertaining to social and biological orphans today is approach to funding. The nationally established system currently finances institutions/orphanages as opposed to funding children the state has the responsibility to take care of. Given social and biological orphans move frequently in their lives and to bolster creation and support of FTHs and FFs, the necessity to reform funding practices and establish a mechanism to provide funding for the education and support on a per child basis, not of an establishment in general (“money follows the child” principle) is of paramount importance. Thus, efforts from the public and NGO sector should be made to help Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy promote the financial side of de-institutionalization reform by educating regional officials of the advantages of family upbringing of orphans.

Our child expert team pursues the monitoring and evaluation of the status of at-risk children in Ukraine and will publish regular updates. We welcome western donors to join our cause.

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