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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Child Welfare Reform in Russia

Chair: Anna Klimova (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Discussant: Tarja Heino (National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland)
Anna Tarasenko (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland): Regional Patterns of the Child's Welfare under the Social Policy Reform in Russia
Nina Ivashinenko
(Nizhni Novgorod State University, Russia): The Strengths and Weaknesses of Reforms of Child Welfare Systems on a Regional Level
Maija Jäppinen (University of Helsinki, Finland): Contested Terrains of Parenthood – Professionals' Discourses about Biological Parents during a Child Welfare Placement
Alla Varyzgina (Nizhni Novgorod State University, Russia): Stereotyping in the Perceptions of Foster Families among the Child Welfare System Specialists as Context of Ongoing Reform

This panel examines the ongoing child welfare reform in Russia, its outcomes in the regional level, institutional changes and public support to them, as well as perceptions of child welfare professionals on different types of parents connected with the system. The reform builds on the idea of every child’s right to grow up in a family and strives to dismantle the massive system of children homes by promoting domestic adoptions, developing foster family system and creating support services for families. Anna Tarasenko’s presentation sketches the main patterns of the outcomes of the reform (deinstitutionalization and the emergence of foster families) by revealing models of cooperation between public organizations and NGOs that are produced by the social and economic regional environment. The analysis of the stage of deinstitutionalization of child welfare in the Russian regions is based on open sources of official statistics on service providers (reestr). The empirical analysis of selected cases of Russian regions describes the emerging models of reform outcomes. Nina Ivashinenko’s paper addresses the institutional changes and whether they are supported by the public opinion. The analysis is based on series of interviews with stakeholders and available official statistics. The evaluations of the institutional changes on regional level refer to: 1) distribution of power and duties between regional ministries involved in child welfare provision services; 2) transfer some range of function carried by the state children’s homes to other institutions such as state socio-rehabilitation centres and NGOs; 3) creation of infrastructure for supporting foster care. Maija Jäppinen analyses in her paper the discourses used by child welfare professionals about the role of biological parents of children placed into out-of-home care to either foster families or children’s homes. In spite of the recent changes, these children are still conceptualized as “social orphans” (sotsial’nye siroty), which emphasizes the total absence of biological parents and the finality of the placement. In the empirical data, the persistent discourse of hopelessness, which does not give much space for the biological parents’ ability to to have a meaningful role in the life of their children, is challenged by sporadic calls for more support to and cooperation with them in order to enable family reunification in the future. Alla Varyzgina’s paper presents the main negative social stereotypes towards foster families in attitudes of professionals in the child welfare system. Based on interview data from Nizhni Novgorod region, the author explores features of communication and collaboration of the professionals and foster families and their mutual perception as a context for their interactions. The paper analyses deep-rooted stigma of a child left without parental care and rather new-born stereotype of foster family as unreliable, not ready to take responsibility for a foster child; and stereotype of mercantile foster family, based on the existence of state financial support and rooted in negative evaluation of fosterers’ motivation to take a foster child.