- ChildFund came to Belarus: 1993
- Population below poverty line: 27.1%
- News about Belarus
- ChildFund Program Reunites a Father and Daughter Read More
- Learning to Dance in a Wheelchair Read More
- Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Belarus Youth with Disabilities Discover Their Voices Read More
- Giving Children Homes Read More
In the early 1990s, Belarus, a country about the size of Kansas with a population of 10 million people, gained its independence after the collapse of the USSR and began the process of economic and social transition. Families and children, though, continue to bear the costs of the lengthy realignment. The country also has experienced tremendous environmental, health, social, political, economic and human consequences because of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
More and more children are at risk from family breakdown, divorce, parental substance abuse and violence, and there are growing numbers of abused and neglected children and social orphans (children who have been legally withdrawn from their parents with deprivation of parental rights). The number of orphaned children has doubled since 1995, and by the end of 2009 reached 29,423 children, approximately 85 to 90 percent of whom are social orphans. The number of children with disabilities has tripled since1990, reaching 30,000 people. Many children who have a disability are abandoned or legally deprived of parental care, and institutionalization is still the usual response, although alternative forms of family care are beginning to emerge.
“Our advocacy work helped create national quality standards for child protection and orphan care.”
ChildFund’s History in Belarus
ChildFund Belarus has been working since 1993 addressing the core causes of children failing to prosper: poverty, child abuse and neglect, disability, family crises and Chernobyl issues, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. For its activity in the Republic of Belarus, ChildFund International in 1997 was awarded the Leo Tolstoy Golden Award, the most prestigious award of the International Association of Children’s Funds.
Orphan Support Program
To help return orphaned children to a sense of normalcy, we’ve created a “Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children” program where those in orphanages and boarding schools have the opportunity to live with “guest” and foster families. On weekends and holidays, children spend time away from institutions and live as part of a loving family. Guest families, in turn, learn that institutionalized children are no different from their own and need the same love and attention. We’ve found that the guest family environment often leads to permanent foster care where children can grow into young adults with self-esteem and confidence. The number of children in boarding school in one village alone has decreased by 40 percent. The project also strengthens the capacity of disadvantaged parents and communities to prevent removal and institutionalization of their children.
As a result of the project activities, the effective model of prevention of institutionalizations was created. Three of five piloted communities stopped placing their children into institutions. The level of institutionalization of orphans in the other project communities decreased to 4 percent while the national average level of institutionalization was almost 25 percent. Now ChildFund in partnership with local counterparts disseminates this model countrywide.
Families in Belarus also face serious gaps in the education system and lack information about sound parenting practices. Parents themselves were victims of a repressive instruction system, frequent use of physical punishment and general lack of understanding of children’s needs. By teaching clear, sound guidelines for parenting as well as nonviolent conflict resolution, we help them develop a foundation of discipline and respect within their families. We also provide classes on reproductive health and child abuse prevention.
We know that children are critical to social change in Belarus. We support Life Skills education, social interactive theater and youth volunteer activities to develop children’s ability to create social change. We also help children develop social and leadership skills by empowering them to design and implement their own programs to help other children. These peer-to-peer programs are used in institutions, hospitals and prisons and for children with disabilities.
The benefits of these programs empower particularly children leaving the institutions to achieve success in life and make their way in the world. It adds up to increasing children’s inner resilience to negative influences, and leads them to healthy and safe lifestyle adaptation.
Our advocacy work helped create national quality standards for child protection and orphan care. We are working to develop additional standards for the investigation of child abuse and neglect and the rehabilitation of biological families to help protect more children.
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Integrating Children with Disabilities
Segregation of children with disabilities hampers their healthy development. It is also a disservice to society, as it promotes stereotyping, misconceptions and prejudice as well as a lack of their contribution to community life. There is limited, if any, access to services for children with severe disabilities living in remote and rural areas and for children.
ChildFund, in its pilot communities, provided a strong integration element through community school children’s volunteer activities with and for children with disabilities such as integrated group activity, leisure time, volunteer projects/initiatives such as integrated training camp and other activities such as home visiting of children with disabilities by volunteer peers. ChildFund also supported pilot projects of home-based care for children with severe disabilities and children living in remote rural areas with no or limited access to service facilities.