Russian ombudsman supports creation of state agency for orphans

Pavel Astakhov (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Pesnya)

Pavel Astakhov (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Pesnya)

The Presidential representative for children’s right says Russia has too many organizations dealing with orphans and wants to see a separate dedicated agency to deal with the issue.

Pavel Astakhov told a Thursday news conference in Moscow that the idea of a special state agency for orphans originated in the Lower House, adding that he as an ombudsman fully supported it but everything depended now on the President and the government.

The ombudsman says 19 separate organisations are dealing with children-related problems and they cannot be effective. Astakhov told reporters that in part the unifying function is now performed by the staff of the presidential plenipotentiary for children’s rights, but they could only make suggestions on action and lacked any control to ensure positive changes.

Astakhov emphasized that in order to successfully solve the problems of orphans the state must deal with the social causes.

He also promised a large-scale inspection of all orphanages in Moscow, scheduled for April this year. The ombudsman said his office was ready to initiate additional checks on institutions if there are any complaints. In particular the ombudsman offered to send psychologists to orphanages so that they could verify the facts behind the complaints.

Russian authorities raised the issue of a nationwide program on orphans’ problems after the parliament suggested banning US adoptions of Russian children. The move is part of Russia’s reply to the US Magnitsky Act, and was motivated by the refusal of US authorities to cooperate with Russians in probes over cruel treatment and even manslaughter of Russian kids in US foster families.

The bill containing the adoptions ban was unanimously approved by the parliament and came into force on January 1 this year but from the very beginning the ban met strong opposition from the public, media and even officials, including several federal ministers. The advocates of the new law say they shared the concerns about the children’s future, but insisted on the need to improve the situation inside the country rather than rely on foreign aid.

President Vladimir Putin instructed the legislators to prepare and introduce a special plan to boost Russia’s domestic adoptions, including state aid to orphanages and tax benefits for adoptive parents.