« Emergency foster family hosts first child
Кatya, a nine months infant, was found in Brovary city in August in awful conditions - when Children's Services entered the flat, she was left alone with a 90 years old (admittedly) her grandmother.
@ EveryChild Ukraine Katya after extreme case of neglect started smiling again
Specialists could say for sure that child was neglected: she was skinny, cried all the time and showed surprised when people started talking to her and embraced her.
Katya's case was referred to Children's Services by the neighbors of block of flats. They told that they heard baby crying for several days and couldn't enter the apartment.
Katya had no birth certificate and all her lifestory had to be checked by competent authorities.
Katya was temporarily removed from the family without depriving parental rights. Firstly, according to procedure, she was placed into the hospital to be examined about her physical condition. Then on the meeting of Coordination Council it was decided to place her to emergency foster family, created by EveryChild Ukraine in Brovary.
Yuriy Petrovych Skorobagat'ko - Deputy Head of Children's Services explains:
"When the children are brought to us they often have no documents or names, need urgent medical care and their legal status is unclear. Previously we were forced to place children without status of an orphan in temporary facilities for extended periods of time, including hospitals.
The hospitals make space for these babies but the problem is that in the first year of life a baby needs to be cuddled, it needs to be talked to Sometimes they could spend there up to three years".
He also pointed out that there are three or five children like Katya each month, who might need emergency placement: there are around three-four cases of abandonment each month (50% can be prevented by the early intervention service), two or three cases for children of migrants found on the streets.
These alarming tendencies are getting worse during the recession, which hit mostly poor and multi-children families. While most of Ukraine is experiencing a low birth rate, people on the margins of society are often having two or three children.
"They [the parents] use them to get their hands on the modest child benefit money doled out by the state,"- adds Skorobagat'ko.
Local authorities managed to find out that Katya's parents were not married; her mother migrated to Brovary from Russia around a year ago and lived in temporary housings. Her father had season jobs and relied mostly on the pension of his grandmother.
Both Katya's parents had problems with alcohol. Family had a great debt on public utilities and was under threat of cutting off gas, water and light. Katya's mother had no passport or other documents, so she couldn't count on any state benefits. The family was not receiving any kind of public assistance.
During her stay in the hospital her parents rarely visited her. Katya's parents did not interact with her in a typical fashion. The mother in particular held the child for no more than two minutes; the father did not interact with the child at all, usually read newspaper.
Katya's placement into an emergency fostering family coincided with 1st of September - beginning of a new school year.
Her foster mother Nataliya agrees that it is still much to learn:
"People often think that being a parent is something natural, like an instinct and it's no point to pass courses for parents. Before the training for foster parents I was very skeptical too. I raised two children by myself and never relied on trainers. But after training I was very satisfied as I found out many new things especially as to attachment theory, early child development and children's rights".
Nataliya previously was an activist who visited abandoned children in hospitals offering them support. She says that she was shocked for the first time when she gave birth to her daughter (23) when she saw an abandoned baby for the first time.
@ EveryChild Ukraine
Nataliya - becomes
an emergency mother
for abandoned children
"He was placed in the dark storeroom and was howling all the time. I felt sorry for these babies and started volunteering: we bought nappies, baby food, and gave babies a bath, dressed them, if we got permission, we took them out for walks.
Then after a coordination meeting in the City Council EveryChild proposed new form of social assistance - emergency fostering family. I thought that it is wonderful as I can help more children not to be in the institutions (in hospital), but to experience family life from the very beginning, they will get individual attention from me and my family members".
Katya now has her own sleeping and playing room, a yard, is well fed. While in foster care Katya will receive special treatment aiming at improving her motor and intellectual development. Katya also will have regular visits with a medical doctor. Katya's foster parents are also instructed to provide a stimulating environment, with the goal of improving her motor and intellectual development.
". Usually in Ukraine fostering is something very long term - in some ways it's a hidden adoption.
So our social services made a brilliant work on recruiting foster parents to this new initiative. We approached people through social advertisements; announcements in newspapers, meeting school committees and parents, religious communities and after training and selection process have chosen Nataliya's family".
@ EveryChild Ukraine
Local expert Nataliya
provides a newly
The challenging thing that EveryChild Ukraine also proposes is to work closer with Katya's family of origin. It's worth mentioning that even now professionals usually fail to acknowledge the importance of familial attachments in the treatment of neglect. Soviet ideology minimized the influence of the family and placed child in institutional settings, attention was not given to the importance of maintaining relationships with the child's family of origin or to establishing new attachment relationships.
In Katya's case part of the advocacy process will include social worker linking Katya and her parents with needed social services.
The first task is to help her parents to find needed social services. Katya will remain in emergency fostering family where she can develop her potential and feel warmth and individual care.
Emergency Foster Family is an integral part of gate-keeping mechanism developed in Kyiv region in terms of the project "Preventing Separation of Children through Implementation of Gate-keeping Mechanism" aimed at the development of a replicable model of gate-keeping and community-based services for children and families in Kyiv Oblast which demonstrates a 30% reduction in the number of children in institutional care.