Reforming Child Welfare in the Post-Soviet Space Institutional Change in Russia
This book provides new and empirically grounded research-based knowledge and insights into the current transformation of the Russian child welfare system. It focuses on the major shift in Russia’s child welfare policy: deinstitutionalisation of the system of children’s homes inherited from the Soviet era and an increase in fostering and adoption.
Divided into four sections, this book details both the changing role and function of residential institutions within the Russian child welfare system as well as the rapidly developing form of alternative care in foster families, and work undertaken with birth families. By analysing the consequences of deinstitutionalisation and its effects on children and young people as well as their foster and birth parents, it provides a model for understanding this process across the whole of the post-Soviet space.
It will be of interest to academics and students of social work, sociology, child welfare, social policy, political science, and Russian and East European politics more generally.
In this chapter, we evaluate the process of the Russian child welfare system deinstitutionalisation based on official statistical data. After an analysis of key transformations in the Russian child welfare system over the past 20 years, we consider official statistics during a shift towards a new model of childcare defined within Decree #481 in 2014. Although the formally declared ideal type of care is family-based placement, we question whether this dominant vision of alternative care is reflected in observable data for the entire country. We estimate the dynamics of primary risk of placement to alternative care, prevalence of family reunions, as well as foster family–based and residential institutional placements. Special attention is paid to alternative care placements of children with disabilities. In addition to that, we follow the transformation of institutional care and show how residential institutions of various types keep up with the pace of reform. We conclude that the declared goals are only partially realised: institutions are being reorganised, but unevenly and sometimes formally, without changing the living conditions of children. Meanwhile, the prevalence of alternative family-based care is growing, while, on the other hand, birth family reunions remain relatively rare.
This chapter analyses the various ways Russian print media present the deinstitutionalisation of child welfare. The authors argue that media coverage of childcare policies legitimates the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ agents and practices. By doing so, the media construct a social problem and demarcate symbolic boundaries along several sociopolitical divides, thereby attempting to achieve control through the promotion of an ‘us vs. them’ discourse in Russian public discussions. The authors find that the search for ‘who is to blame’ begins with foreign adoptive parents, and then shifts towards domestic actors in the field of patronat and juvenile justice. It was revealed that many children are on the margins; as the metaphor of ‘last-minute’ children, raised in one article, shows, they are only adopted unexpectedly and, in many cases, not at all. Some themes are missing or very rarely mentioned in the newspapers examined in this study, including professionalisation of care that relates to children’s rights. Children are generally treated as an object than a subject of social relations, victims of circumstances, the living outcome of deficiencies of state institutional upbringing, or a result of poor decisions made by birth parents