Situation with at-risk children in Ukraine before the Ukraine – Russia war

This article summarises the situation with disadvantaged children in Ukraine before the current phase of the war.

We recently discussed the difficulties children in Ukraine currently face living inside their home country at this most difficult war time. Our program and website offer a mechanism of relief and support for at-risk Ukrainian children through the individual child sponsorship:  https://helpchildreninukraine.org/ When we ponder how difficult the situation with disadvantaged children in Ukraine is today, after almost 10 months of the war, we have to keep in mind what issues at-risk Ukrainian children were facing even before the war started. Poverty in Ukraine has been the main reason for children to end up in orphanages. For comparison: in the Soviet Union time the vast majority of 100,000 children in orphanages were legal orphans. However, after 1990 as economic and social problems started to hit Ukraine more and more the orphanage residents statistics started to change: more and more children who have at least one living parent wound up in Ukrainian orphanages. One famous example of such circumstances is Ani Lorak, a well-known singer whose parents brought her to an orphanage under their own will when she was a child. As years of Ukrainian independence went by more and more Ukrainians simply could not afford to feed and house their own children. Poverty pushed them to make a horrible decision: make a statement to the local government announcing they “temporarily abandon” their child(ren) and ask the government to take care and raise their children. Sad reality, isn’t it! By the time the Ukraine – Russia war started, out of 106,000 children in Ukrainian orphanages only 4,000 were legal orphans(!), thus 102,000 children in orphanages had alive parent(s) who in many cases lived in the same town or district where the orphanage is located. If such parents did not abuse alcohol or drugs the orphanage management would allow some children to spend weekends with their parents if, of course, parents invited their children for the weekend or school break. The mandatory school education for most orphanages in Ukraine was organised on the orphanage grounds (such orphanages are called Boarding Schools), thus children did not have any reason to leave the territory of the orphanage at all. In addition, by Ukrainian law orphanages are “closed institutions”, thus outsiders are banned from entering the orphanage grounds without permission. Essentially, this made orphanages look and feel not much different from prisons. In addition to orphanages Ukrainian orphans (70,876 is the total number of orphans in Ukraine according to last government statistics) live in foster care and families of their relatives who became their legal guardians. By February 2022, over 14,500 orphans lived in foster families and family type homes in Ukraine, and almost 50,000 orphans in kinship (under care of relatives – legal guardians). Every year about 10,000 new children become orphans. The war in Ukraine made all these numbers significantly worse. “Compassion Is Life’s” charitable program titled CHILDREN IN UKRAINE is trying to help the most at-risk Ukrainian children using the individual sponsorship mechanism. Our children support approach is unique as it directly connects Ukrainian children in need with prospective sponsors.

One of Ukrainian leading at-risk children experts, Konstantin Yakubenko, M.A has spent over 27 years developing disadvantaged children programs since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.  Konstantin created the standard for analysis of situations to assist disadvantaged children during his 8.5-year career with U.S. government assistance programs in Ukraine (USAID). He was also the author of the next stage independent assessment of disadvantaged children in Ukraine, published in 2005.  His later experience working with at-risk children programs immediately connects “Compassion Is Life” with all key stakeholders in Ukraine. We seek local charities and government entities on national and regional levels, who would help develop the program at the grassroots level. Our team hopes the growth of the “Compassion Is Life” program will be recognized by large U.S. government and non-profit agencies

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