Church and state join together to protect children’s rights

Milena Faustova
Moscow Time

Several scandals linked to the infringement of Russian children’s rights in some countries have prompted the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church to work out a joint action plan in children’s rights area. At a meeting with Russian children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill discussed several joint projects, which are necessary for assuring each child, especially orphans and the handicapped that they are protected.

According to statistic data, there is one orphan-child per 1,000 adults in Russia, and the government is taking care of 130,000 children without parents. Last year, 8,000 children were taken back from foster parents because they were not ready to bring them up. International adoption on which the government relied has proven that it is not the solution. In these circumstances, the only solution is to coordinate efforts of government organizations and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The two sides have chosen several areas of cooperation, including countering abortion, preserving families and protecting the rights of handicapped children. The Orthodox Church has gained broad experience in these areas. The clergy has been doing their best to help children and has been building orphanages where orphans get deserved education and necessary assistance, says Patriarch Kirill.

“We have 90 orphanages where about 1,500 orphans live. A large number of these children are studying and are getting good education. About 30 percent of them get higher education and about 25 percent special secondary education. The monasteries are spending money until these children start waging independent life. In short, if they are studying in institutes or universities, monasteries are providing them with stipends. Monasteries help them to get houses or even buy flats when they marry and start independent life,” Patriarch Kirill said.

Although these orphanages are very important, clearly, they are insufficient to improve the situation. According to Pavel Astakhov, the key task of the day is to do the best to reduce the number of orphans not only by promoting the institution of guardianship but also by returning children to the relatives of their parents. There is a need to work out a mechanism to help those who are in need and problem families. In fact, Russia has positive experience in this area, says Pavel Astakhov.

“Tyumen region provides a good example. In 2003, it launched the “Passport of Problem Family” programme. All details of a problem family and all of its members are available. In these families people drink, do drugs and do not work. Special groups start working with them. These families get medical help and assistance to start managing a subsidiary holding or even to launch private business. As a result, 83 families out of one hundred have restored their normal family status,” Pavel Astakhov said.

The outcome of the cooperation between the Church and the government will be summed up shortly. In April, the All-Russian Conference of Child Ombudsmen will be held in St. Petersburg. For the first time, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church will take part in it.