New moms and dads: how Moscow supports adoption and foster families

New moms and dads: how Moscow supports adoption and foster families
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin
By November 2016, the city has found families for 90 percent of its orphans and children left without parental care. Here you can find out about benefits for adoptive and foster parents, the difference between adoption and guardianship, and steps to make if you want to take in a child.

Every year more Muscovites are taking the future of kids at children’s homes into their own hands. The number of adoptive and foster families grew from 2,537 to 2,646 or 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 2016. As a result, 240 kids found new homes.

The last six years saw a 48 percent increase in the number of orphans and children left without parental care who were placed in families.

Family Education Support Centres

By late 2015, all of Moscow’s boarding-schools, orphanages, children’s homes, special needs boarding institutions had become Family Education Support Centres. There, Muscovites can talk with children and get information about guardianship and temporary placement, and adopt a child or become foster parents.

There are 31 state centres and seven private institutions in Moscow for orphans and children without parental care. The number of children there dropped 20 percent beginning 2016 from 2,473 to 1,980. They are children aged 10 and above with health limitations, including the Down syndrome. Overall, the number of children at boarding institutions more than halved in the past six years.

Over 18,700 kids are under some form of foster care, of which uncompensated guardianship is the most common, followed by adoption and foster family.

Guardians and custodians

Moscow has 7,600 guardian families raising over 8,600 children.

Guardians or custodians are legally competent adults, usually relatives. The person’s moral character and the child’s wishes are taken into account.

Minors under 14 are placed with guardians, who are their legal representatives and can act on their behalf. The guardian commits to protecting their wards’ interests and to providing them with education and care. A guardian is replaced by a custodian after the child turns 14. Custody ends once the ward reaches the age of 18 or is married.

Guardians or custodians receive payments for supporting their wards, and receive assistance and compensation to giving them an education, organising holidays and medical treatment.

While under the care of a guardian, the child can visit their kin, but he or she cannot change their family name or date of birth.

Adoption

So far in 2016, 187 children have been adopted in Moscow. There are over 5,100 families raising 5,700 adopted children.

Adoptive parents acquire all parental rights and duties. They give the child their family name and they raise their adoptive sons and daughters as their own children.

Prospective parents are required to be legally competent, have no felony convictions, and be at least 16 years older than their adoptees. They must also have accommodation and a sufficient income. Those who suffer from alcohol and substance abuse, infections and mental conditions, or who have previously lost custody over a child either as parents or guardians, are prohibited from adopting.

Foster families

The first nine months of 2016 saw 109 foster families established in Moscow, with 240 kids finding a new home. Overall, there are 2,600 foster families in the city raising 4,412 children.

A foster family is established through a contract with child custody services. Foster parents are the child’s official guardians and legal representatives. Unlike ordinary guardians, they are compensated.

This caregiving option is available for both couples and single people. They must not suffer from alcohol and drug abuse, have no serious health conditions or felony convictions, and be able to provide for the child in their daily life and studies.

Learning to be a parent

A married couple who have their eyes on adoption or guardianship can receive advice at an adoptive parenting school. Here, specialists can consult them on the required documentation and benefits, and tell them how to help a child adapt to their new family, to avoid family conflicts, or to raise a kid with special needs.

Moscow currently has 57 adoptive parenting schools, which trained 2,637 in the first nine months of 2016. Additionally, 54 more organisations assist foster care families and guardians. Overall, 1,149 families with 1,754 children have opted for such assistance.

Social benefits for families raising orphans and children left without parental care

As a child is placed under family care, Moscow social protection services make a lump sum payment as stipulated by Federal Law No 81-FZ of 19 May 1995 On State Allowances to Citizens with Children.

The allowance is paid in any case of in-family care – adoption, guardianship, or foster care. The sum to pay is set at:

118,529. 25 roubles, if a child with disabilities, a child aged seven or above or two or more siblings are adopted;

15,512.65 roubles, if an orphan, or a child without parental care is taken into foster care, guardianship or custodianship, or if an orphan or a child left without parental care who does not have a disability, a child younger than seven or a sole sibling is adopted;

Last year, the allowance covered 2,304 children placed in foster care, and the parents of 106 kids were paid the maximum possible amount. This year, parents of 1,855 have received the allowance and the families of 100 children got 118,500 roubles each.

Moscow also pays a monthly allowance for raising orphans and children left without parental care who are placed with guardians, custodians, foster parents, and patronage tutors, or who were adopted after 1 January 2009. Beginning 1 January this year, this monthly sum increased by 10 percent and amounts to between 16,500 to 27,500 roubles based on the number of kids, their age and health.

A monthly allowance paid to foster parent (patronage tutors) was also raised on 1 January.

Foster parents and patronage tutors receive 16,700 roubles for each child under their care, while the sum paid for a child with a disability has been increased to 28,390 roubles. In families, where there are only one or two children, only one parent receives the payment, while both parents are entitled to this benefit if they are raising more than three kids for each kid.

The lump sump compensation for the expenses incurred by adoption is set at 76,900 roubles for the first adopted child, 107,700 for the second, and 153,800 for the third.

The city also covers utility and telephone bills, provides free pubic transport passes, and summer holiday trips for kids every year, and for parents with kids every two years. Since 2014, Moscow has offered up to 45,000 of compensation for holiday tours purchased out of pocket.

Orphans or children left without parental care receive housing in accordance with social care regulations after they come of age, provided they do not have any property of their own.

A new home for a new family

Since 2014, Moscow has been implementing a project to improve living standards for families who care for older orphans and/or kids with disabilities.

Families who have taken under their care no less than five orphans, of whom three are aged 10 or more, and/or have disabilities, receive housing that is spacious enough to accommodate a large family. The floor area is calculated based on 10 to 18 square metres per each member of the family, including the parents, their own under-aged children, and the foster or adopted children.

If the couple has been married for at least three years and passes a psychological assessment they can live on the property for free for 10 years. After that, the parents can keep the apartment under a social rent contract.

The project has encompassed 34 foster families with 203 kids. Of them, 63 have disabilities, and 93 are aged 10 or above.

A real family prize

The Stork’s Wings Prize is awarded to people and organisations for their contribution to promoting in-family care. Winners receive a statuette depicting a flying stork and a child.

Natalia and Valery Zhuravlyov won the award in its most prestigious category, which recognises adoptive parents, guardians, custodians, foster parents and patronage tutors for their special personal contribution to the promotion of in-family care. The Zhuravlyovs are raising three kids of their own and 15 adopted children, six of whom have the Down syndrome.

The couple also helped place under family care 38 children with this condition.

The St Sophia Children’s Home was awarded the prize as one of Russia’s first private care facilities for children with severe multiple development al disabilities. It has under its roof 22 children who follow a special education programme and have an opportunity to socialise with the help of volunteers. Staff are looking for a new home for the kids, but care will be provided to those who will stay on even after they come of age.

This year introduced a new category called “The Person”, which recognizes the contribution of an individual. The prize went to psychologist Galina Semya, Professor at the Psychological Anthropology Department of Moscow State Pedagogical University.