The Rights of homeless children in Ukraine: Who’s protecting them?


The State tries to resolve the problem through children’s homes and refuge centres. However practice shows that after leaving such homes, half the young people end up in places of deprivation of liberty while half of the girls reject their babies in maternity homes. A further 20 percent, having left such homes, start living on the streets and 15 percent try to commit suicide.  Developed European countries have long moved away from such children’s homes and are attempting to prove the futility of such practice in Ukraine. Norwegians have, for example, been working for some length of time, with the International organization “Sluzhba poryatunku ditey” [“Child rescue service”] which over the 5 years that it has been running has helped many children find a family.

It is already several months since 13-year-old Sashko ran away from home. He left his family and a brother he was fed up with always having conflict with, got on a train and in few hours was already in Kyiv. He lived at railway stations and ate what he could get by begging from passers by. It was people from the Child Rescue Service who put an end to the teenager’s begging by managing to persuade the lad to visit their Centre for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation.

Sashko: The first day I didn’t want to be there. I cried and said that I’d run away.

However, after a few days the wish to run away had vanished.  The reason:

Sashko: Here the adults are OK, they’re really nice, and like the kids. And most of all, I like roller skating.

However some rules in the Centre the lad didn’t find easy to get used to. Sashko says that the hardest was giving up smoking and drinking. Recently the teachers noticed him smoking behind a bush. I didn’t find out what happened – a lesson began, and in the Centre you don’t skive off classes.

Stealing is also not acceptable in the Centre … However, as one of the people working in the Child Rescue Service, Olena Morhun, says, street children do not find this easy.:

Olena Morhun: - Theft for children who’ve been living on the streets is just the norm. However we tell them -  here in our Centre we want to help you, and we want you to have a decent future.

And the children begin to think and believe that we care about their future. Although it’s not easy for all children to imagine their future

They live day by day. For them the main thing is to get some food and somewhere to spend the night, and safety.

The favourite place for the children in the Centre is the kitchen. It’s there that new arrivals can most often be found. 

[The reporter asked the children what was the best thing for them:

First child – Rice building

Second child  - I like borsch, red and with soured cream, and mashed potatoes with salad

Third child – Sweet things – cakes and sweets

The Child Rescue Service runs several Centres – for the family, for emergency help, medical and social assistance, social and psychological rehabilitation. There is also a Social hostel where teenagers over the age of 16 can stay for a while.

Although the main aim of the Service, according to its Director, Mykola Kuleba, is to return the child to a family.

Therefore the main centre is the Centre for the family where we look for a family who would like to care for the child. We also work with the families that the children ran away from. It is possible that the family itself needs help.

Because it’s very easy to take away parental rights and throw a child into a children’s home.

We know that the best way to make children good is to make them happy. At present however the Child Rescue Service is only able to make some children happy. Although their aim and their dreams are much more ambitious.

Mykola Kuleba:  When we see a happy child, one who was living on the streets and is now living in a family and is stable, that is our greatest success. However if in the future we can succeed in changing the attitude to children in Ukraine and establish this system which would work throughout Ukraine, we would be happy. That is our goal.

Experience shows that children often hold in their frail fingers a truth which those with much stronger hands are unable to hold. The main thing, according to Mykola Kuleba, Director of the Child Rescue Service, is that this truth should not be distorted by adults’ indifference and by the formal care of the state.

The International Charity “Child Rescue Service», 03187, Kyiv, Teremkivska Street, 9, tel: 526-92-17, 466-93-45 tel / fax 526-96-96, e-mail : [email protected]

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