For a long time I have been fighting for valid campaigns in support of children without parental care, and sadly, these days the campaigns are still lacking.
This is, however, not because campaigns in itself lack, but much rather because of incorrect facts, an example of how this is the case can be read on the blog of Sarah Elizabeth Neville(part 1 & part 2).
But, that’s not all, another part is actually a lack of knowledge by the people who are shown to speak out, which most often are celebrities, because somehow people tend to listen to them most…
When it comes to the area I am active at, which is Ukraine and Russia, I’m eventually Russian-Ukrainian, we belong to the group of countries that once had the most feared form of institutionalization, we were not as bad as a country like Romania, but we were not as good as countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and France…
.. wait, hold on, why didn’t I name the United Kingdom, they are one of the most active countries when it comes to anti-institutionalization, right?
Well, the answer is that the system in the United Kingdom is as broken as the system used to be here in Ukraine, actually, according to experts, it is even worse.
The amount of abuse and neglect is said to be so high, that I am glad to have been born in Ukraine, and not in the United Kingdom, regardless of having many British friends, as I probably would have been off worse than what I have experienced now.
It’s the first of the problems what I intended to share by people with a lack of knowledge speaking out.
As there are several countries where you truly don’t wish to be a child without parental care, because the conditions are truly horrible, and the only country that is named in regards of Eastern Europe is Romania, the other countries include some African, Asian, and South American countries, but far more importantly, it includes names of Western countries, like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.
Although these countries have problems stemming from several sectors, one of the clearest is foster care, and yes, the lack of knowledge people have about foster care.
To start off simple, a lot of people think that foster care means that a child is either placed with a guardian or foster parent, but they often are not aware that group homes are also a form of foster care.
Which may make you ask “but isn’t being placed in group homes the same as institutional care?”, and the answer is simple, it is a clear “yes”.
The reality is that people who name foster care as a replacement for institutional care are not aware of their facts, as foster care includes all recognized forms of care for a child without parental care except for the actual solution, an actual family for the child.
And to make it a bit harder, being placed with a foster parent should not happen for children without parental care to begin with!
As the difference between a foster parent and an actual parent is primarily 1 thing, a foster parent gets paid to take care of the child, an actual parent pays the costs him/herself.
Which also makes it very disturbing that a lot of rules of adoption do not apply to those who want to become a foster parent, like there almost never being the need of being married, which is required to adopt in most countries, and also the required age difference of most often at least 10 to 15 years does not apply(most often with the exception of sibling adoption).
It’s understandable that foster parents exist, as they are validly needed for children who are placed out of home with an expectation that they will someday return to their parental home, but when it comes to children who are up for adoption, it does not, especially because there are far too little parents who consider adoption to begin with.
In fact, in a discussion group I am in, there were examples shared of articles by several sources that recommended becoming foster parent over adoptive parent because of the payments, which is disturbing, at least, it is to me.
And, of course, it doesn’t stop there, as I didn’t name the example of the United Kingdom without a reason, I have all but hate towards the country.
As when it comes to comparing the percentages of abuse and neglect in group homes and by foster parents, they are relatively equal…(Exact percentages will be added ASAP!)
Which should make the question arise: “Is it just institutional care that is broken, or is the whole foster care system?”
And there is no true answer to it.
As the problem behind the foster care system is that it has several groups of children who come into it.
Like the already named examples of children without parental care, and children who are placed out of home, but there are also children who choose it themselves, who indeed choose to not be with their parents.
In relation to children without parental care it is broken, but to those other 2 groups it is not. Yes, there are problems, but problems can be fixed.
The latter is also my point of all I am writing right now, as problems can be fixed, meaning that institutional care can be fixed.
Currently we are investing millions in getting rid of institutional care, while with the same amount of money we could have fixed the problems that are there when it comes to institutional care.
And let’s not forget, most of the campaigns are not truly fighting institutional care to begin with, as their solutions include actually group homes…
Yes, you heard me right, group homes are said to be a solution by many of these organizations, one of which is the well-known Lumos, meaning they basically say the solution of institutional care includes institutional care, which may seem weird, but it’s actually not.
It brings us once again to the point of not speaking out when you don’t know all the facts, and in this regard is the point that is often overseen the fact that institutional care is a very broad term. Institutional care is not just group homes(children’s homes, orphanages, and residential child care communities), but also places like treatment centres and psychiatric hospitals.
Still, the latter 2 are unusual places for a child without parental care to be placed, unusual, unless the child has some sort of special need.
Which is likely where the campaigns stem from, even though I know of only 1 organization who truly voices this, which is Disability Rights International.
By the placement of children in these places quite obviously we are creating a huge problem, I don’t believe I need to say anything to explain it, hence I won’t do so.
However, that still doesn’t mean group homes are perfect, all but.
The main problem when it comes to group homes is the lack of child carers.
It’s what I noticed myself first-hand while I helped out at children’s homes in the Moscow Oblast, as while I lived during my early childhood in children’s homes myself, it was not on my mind back then. (If you want to help out at children’s homes in the region of Moscow, it’s best to get into contact with my friends over at «Клуб волонтеров»: http://club-volonterov.ru/dod)
At the children’s home I helped out most often, and before moving back to Ukraine even helped out exclusively, I needed to take care of a group of 14 children…
Yes, 14 children, meaning that the individual care a child needs is limited by just a short amount of time, and effectively the child will not get the love he/she deserves.
And apart of just that, it puts a lot of stress on the child carer himself/herself, as it can’t be that a child didn’t get your undivided attention, which makes it kind of obvious that a lot of child carers have a burnout. (It’s also why foster parents who take care of a large group of children deserve a lot more recognition!!!)
However, that’s also the reason where my opposition of the anti-institutionalization campaigns stems from.
(And as I still need to say sorry for my harassing of 1 of the organizations, let me do this right here in public: All of Lumos, my apologies of the previous harassing regarding terminology, my emotions clouded my judgement, it’s no excuse, but it’s the reality, I can’t make more of it.)
As by the acts of the anti-institutionalization campaigns the funds to most group homes is diminishing fast, making more and more of the caregivers actual volunteers by now, meaning that they have also the requirement of a regular job beside being a caregiver, and effectively even increasing the pressure most child carers are under, and decreasing the quality of care rapidly.
Yet, the biggest problem of the whole discussion lies with the quality of care.
When it comes to children without parental care, we all know that there is only 1 valid solution, which is a family for every child.
However, we all somehow have an idea how this should look like.
Which is where we also find the discrimination in this all, as in some countries you can’t adopt if you’re not married, if you look a certain way, if you have any mental condition, if you are of a certain sexuality, if you are not a certain age, and a quite long list afterwards.
Even though all that should be important is the quality of care, whether a child is safe, happy, and has a good upbringing.
And when it comes to that, it doesn’t matter if the potential parent is married, after all, there are many 1 parent families which give the children the most amazing childhoods.
It doesn’t matter if a potential parent looks a certain way, after all, love is not based on looks.
It doesn’t matter if a potential parent has a mental condition, after all, not every mental condition means the inability to care, like my autism is in some countries enough to not be able to ever adopt.
It doesn’t matter if a potential parent is of a certain sexuality, after all, 2 males or 2 females are as great a parents as 1 male and 1 female will be parents.
And as for age, there are girls this day and age who give birth at ages like 15, and they still turn out to be the most amazing parent the child ever could have.
Which is to me the overlapping point of all what I wrote before:
We all have some kind of vision of what is right and what is not right, but we often look beyond what the person in question wants.
Being someone who has grown up in the institutional care of Ukraine, I can’t deny that it has worked out for me.
If I would imagine a world in which I wouldn’t have been in institutional care, I probably would not be the person I am now, and more importantly, I wouldn’t empathize with others the way I do now. I wouldn’t change my past, even though I would have to classify my past as quite horrible.
And yet, I know there are others for which it would be exactly the opposite, who didn’t come out right and who would want to change the past.
But instead of giving the children who we are talking about the choice, we only notice what we want, and not actually what is right for them.
Just look at how most often children are not given a true voice because they are supposedly too young, the clearest example you could ever get of adultism.
Henceforth that the solution to the problem that exists for children without parental care is not anything that has been named throughout this blog post, and neither anything else you will see of all those campaigns that just want your money…
The solution is what it always has been, giving the children the ability to choose between the form of foster care, and no longer forcing the choice upon them.
Eventually, we are not yet able to give every child a family, but let’s at least give them the choice to decide about their own lives…