After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than have any of the other former Soviet republics. The Belarus government placed restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly and religion remain in place, and the economy of Belarus is in a difficult period of stagnation. In cooperation with local and international partners, ChildFund Belarus implements programs that address child protection, deinstitutionalization, inclusive education, sustainable health and social care, community mobilization, volunteer development, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, and respond to the ongoing consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
ChildFund has served children in Belarus since 1993.
ChildFund’s programs for children from birth to age 5 focus on preventing child abuse and neglect, improving parenting knowledge and addressing the high level of trauma and accidents that are often associated with neglect and poor supervision by care providers. There is also an ongoing effort to reduce institutionalization, segregation and exclusion of children with disabilities. Our Parenting Skills Enhancement Program helps parents learn about the stages of a child’s development and possible reasons for a child’s misbehavior so that they can understand a child’s feelings and emotions and react appropriately and without violence. The SafeCare home visitation service helps make home environments safer for children, and lessens the reliance on the child protection system. Our advocacy for a family-centered approach by social services providers has increased the development of alternative family-type care for orphaned children, stemming the flow of young children into institutions. Finally, ChildFund is piloting inclusive education in several Belarus preschools; the country has prioritized inclusive education of children in Belarus with disabilities as a result of our advocacy.
Because education in Belarus children in this age group lack quality educational programs that would help build relevant life skills and social and financial competencies, ChildFund Belarus partners with the Aflatoun program, which offers social and financial education. After-school clubs improve life skills such as cooking and cleaning, and ultimately have reduced juvenile delinquency. We continue to provide training on inclusive education in Belarus to benefit children with disabilities, who suffer widespread discrimination . Parents of school-age children also benefit from the Parenting Skills Enhancement Program.
For older youth, ChildFund’s efforts on behalf of inclusive education include training university students as future teachers, and placing specialists on faculty at vocational schools around the country so that children with disabilities have a chance to gain higher education and training alongside their peers. Several young volunteers, trained by ChildFund and our partners on child protection issues, serve as an invaluable resource for their local child-protection systems, providing home visitation to young families who are at risk. And the Parenting Skills Enhancement Program offers the Survival Course for a Parent of a Teenager to help lessen family violence.