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Ombudsman's Plans for Orphans Under Fire

Published: January 18, 2013 (Issue # 1742)


MOSCOW Experts sharply criticized childrens ombudsman Pavel Astakhovs proposals Thursday to create an orphan agency and inspect orphanages in Moscow, measures that appeared aimed at addressing concern over orphans welfare in Russia after the country renounced U.S. adoptions.

An agency with that name, explicitly for orphans, thats the end of the world, said Boris Altschuler, head of the childrens rights watchdog Rights of the Child. He said a bureaucracy predicated on the existence of orphans would have little incentive to reduce their numbers.

Astakhov told Izvestia that he supported the creation of an orphan agency, adding at a news conference that the current system involves 19 agencies and is ineffective, Interfax reported.

But while more than 80 percent of Russias 650,000 orphans have living parents, the country would be better off creating an agency to help children stay in their families or find adoptive families, Altschuler said.

The childrens ombudsman also said a thorough inspection of Moscow orphanages in April will see psychologists dispatched to meet children.

This is the equivalent of visiting a prisoner in solitary confinement and asking him How do you like it here? said Alexander Gezalov, head of the Successful Orphans project.

If the government were serious about improving the lives of orphans, it would concentrate on reducing the number living in orphanages, which stunt childrens development and stigmatize them, he said.

About 371,700 children are growing up in state institutions, according to figures that the Russian government presented to the United Nations in 2011.

Addressing confusion about how the adoption ban will be carried out, Astakhov said orphans whose adoption has already been court-sanctioned a total of 40 to 50 children will be allowed to join their new families in the United States.

The other 100 or so pending adoptions will not go forward, he said, a move that struck Gezalov as heartless, given that some orphans have already met their prospective parents.

Astakhov is saying that even if the children have met their adoptive parents, the kids are so stupid that they dont understand whom theyve met, he said.

Orphans are leaving with their American adoptive families on a nearly daily basis, Astakhov said, but according to a report by the BBC Russian Service, not a single Russian orphan has left for the United States in 2013 due to egregious bureaucratic obstruction.

The Kremlin has faced protests and international condemnation over its decision to end U.S. adoptions as of Jan. 1. The government says it is protecting orphans from abuse at the hands of American adoptive parents 19 have died since 1996 while critics have described the law as a cruel nationalist ploy.

U.S. parents have adopted 45,112 Russian children since 1999, including 956 in 2011, according to the State Department.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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