Before our arrival on the scene, the majority of lone children were forced to grow up in children’s homes. The few foster parents caring for young people in the area received no training and although they were offered financial support, no guidance was available and the authorities left them entirely to their own devices.
In 2000, SOS Children decided that the only way to fill this deplorable gap in care was to provide our own training and support to foster parents. The SOS approach was to radically overhaul the existing system by ensuring regular contact was made with foster families and a support infrastructure available at all times. This way, we could guarantee the welfare of children and check that families were coping as well.
Foster care has the capacity to change youngsters’ lives. Twenty-year old Katya remembers first arriving with her foster family after years in a children’s home.
“There were fewer people around me. People took an interest in me. It was home and I had privacy with my own room," she recalls.
Training for foster parents is thorough. SOS Children runs a comprehensive training programme which achieves the highest standard of care, matches children with parents, and ensures all are prepared for their new family life together.
The key focus is the individual. All parents working with SOS Children are required to draw up an “individual development plan” uniquely tailored to the needs of the child they are taking on.
Marina Golovina, leader of the SOS foster family project in Murmansk, discusses the importance of the individual. "Particularly when it comes to matters relating to school and the choice of a career, we discuss the child's interests, knowledge and talents at length in order to make the best possible decision."
An important aspect in helping ensure children grow up healthy and happy is understanding their personal history and retaining links with natural parents. Until SOS Children’s involvement, the Murmansk authorities had largely ignored the necessity of parent-child contact, while SOS Children does everything it can to ensure such contact can take place wherever possible.
A key goal for the coming years is to improve care for children with disabilities. Often, it is these children who are most in need of the love and support a foster family can offer. But currently, they have little chance of finding a place in a foster home.
However, SOS Children is in the midst of implementing a project designed to provide additional support to families caring for children with special needs.
So far, SOS Children’s achievements in the area of foster care in Murmansk have been impressive. Since the turn of the century, capacity in the region has multiplied, and as time goes by SOS Children continues to launch new innovations in the quest to improve care so that lone children can grow up with a family of their own.
Read more about SOS Children's work in Russia...