A report on the current situation in Ukraine and how should we defend children?

Provided by the Ukrainian Education Platform (2022)


Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine. How should we defend children?

“Today, under the circumstances of full-scale invasion of Russia into the territory of Ukraine, our priority is to defend the rights of the children. Along with the Ministry for Social Policy of Ukraine, other ministries, and agencies, and also UNICEF UN Children’s Fund we are searching for the ways to help children and families” - “Ukrainian Child’s Rights Network” appealed.


“Ukrainian Child’s Rights Network” (UCRN) – is a public association that unites 24 Ukrainian and international organizations and charitable funds working all around Ukraine to ensure the rights and welfare of children.


The organization focuses on – orphans and children deprived of parental care, families in difficult life circumstances, particularly, the families raising a child with disabilities.


Due to the escalation of the conflict in the eastern Ukraine, the UCRN is ready to aid all families with children who will need it: in boarding schools, and in alternative forms of education, and in crisis families. The target group also includes unaccompanied children, in particular from institutions, but not only. Unfortunately, the number of children in this category will grow.


“Our concerns refer not only to the Donetska and Luhanska regions. We receive messages from all over the country: the children in the orphanages are scared, not all the managers have specific instruction in case of evacuation. Everywhere foster parents, guardians, foster carers and educators of family-type orphanages, parents of children with disabilities, appeal not only to local authorities, but also to volunteers and NGOs,” - Darya Kasyanova states, a chairman of the board of the Public Union “Ukrainian Network for the Child’s Rights”.


A special concern is that the vast majority of children have parents and transportation of these children can be done exclusively after the parental permission.


A special attention should be paid to transportation of people with disabilities – not only in institutions, but also in families, who raise such children.


There are 7,5 million children in Ukraine.


According to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, as of September 2021, 68581 orphans and children, deprived of parental care are registered in Ukraine (the information is provided excluding the territories where the state authorities do not exercise their powers).

The number of children who can be adopted – 16778, candidates for adoption – 1095.


In Ukraine there are:

• 1265 family-type orphanages with 8813 children

• 3119 foster families with 5924 children

• 48786 children, who are living in the families of carers

Not less than 4500 children live all day and night in orphanages.

The institutional houses in Ukraine include 38 houses of a child (2 756 children), where children aged from birth to 3 years live. Every year up to 2000 children are accommodated in the orphanages.


On the contrary, according to the public organizations – around 100 children live in orphanages in Ukraine. The official statistics does not consider the phenomenon of so-called "hidden orphanhood": these are the children without statistics, children deprived of parental care, who are in infectious diseases departments of hospitals, special and sanatoriums, training, and rehabilitation centers.


UCRN has gathered quantitative indicators on the areas from which children of vulnerable categories can be evacuated (Table 1).


Table 1


“First of all, we mean Donetsk and Luhansk regions, although much larger territory is at risk. Along with the territories under occupation, there are Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, where there are even more children in institutions, foster families, family-type orphanages. In these areas - the highest density of children, in particular, the most vulnerable - in residential institutions. Odessa, Kherson - the same situation. These are tens of thousands of children who may need to be evacuated,” - Darya Kasyanova thinks.


On December 24, 2021, the UCRN addressed a letter to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, as well as other high-ranking officials: Ministers of Social Policy, Health, Science and Education, Head of the State Service of Emergency, the Supreme Council, Commissioner for Human Rights, Adviser to the President of Ukraine on children's rights and children’s rehabilitation.


The letter contains a request that the possibility of an intrusion should be considered and that a coordination council be set up "to develop a plan for the effective information, support and safe evacuation of children and their families, including children currently in boarding schools, together with a list of places to accommodate families and children."


At first UCRN received the response from only two addresses: Oksana Filipishyna, Representative of the Commissioner for Children's Rights, Non-Discrimination and Gender Equality, and Daria Gerasymchuk, Adviser to the President - Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation. They assured that they support the initiative of the Network, are ready to help and coordinate efforts. In particular, according to Darya Gerasymchuk, the state plans to create humanitarian camps for children from foster families and family-type orphanages, where foster mothers will live with children.


Another offer of UCRN is to create a coordination council of the national level, which could take corresponding solutions and influence evacuation plans. “Preferably, the Coordinating Council will include representatives of all relevant ministries and agencies, international humanitarian missions, such as the UNICEF, the Ukrainian Network for the Rights of the Child, and a staff in each region. We are assured that such plans exist,” - Darya Kasyanova states.

Another letter outlining the vulnerability of the population during the armed conflict was sent to the European Commission's office in Brussels.


Today, along with the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, other ministries, and agencies, as well as the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, UCRN member organizations are searching for ways to help children and families in danger.


“We are finishing a plan that will allow us to quickly coordinate actions and clearly understand who and what will be able to help our target groups. This applies to psychological support, home care for beneficiaries, as well as information on which institutions in different areas are willing to accept temporary accommodation for children from boarding schools, foster parents with children from alternative forms of education,” - Darya Kasyanova tells.


The first planned steps – psychological assistance to children and adults, and, besides, training of the UCRN members and partner organizations, rendering this service: how to support children under the conditions of shelling, how to stabilize his condition and the child's condition, how to behave in other extreme cases.


There is still no mass evacuation of children and families. But if it is announced, members of the Network are ready to assist and help families with safe travel. Another question is where to transport them, where to accommodate them.

“So far we have not seen quantitative indicators: someone can give shelter to one family, because the house in the village is empty, and someone is talking about an abandoned sanatorium. All this needs to be checked. Foster families and family-type orphanages only in Donetsk and Luhansk regions - include already 1000 children without parents. If you take Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, there are even more people. We remember that in 2014, the vast majority of children and families were evacuated through the efforts of volunteers and NGOs," Olga Kosse said, a coordinator of the ISAR project of the Ukrainian Network for the Rights of the Child.


“We will act this way: as soon as we find out that some structure or some specific people are responsible for this area, we will contact them, check the information again. And if it works well, let it work for itself, if not, we will find alternatives and think about how to help our target groups,” - Darya Kasyanova explains.


To understand the resource, opportunities of the civil society that cares for vulnerable categories of children, UCRN has surveyed 43 organizations (Picture 1). Including – members of the Network and partner organizations throughout Ukraine.


Picture 1



The vast majority of organizations is ready to render a whole range of services (Picture 2):


◈ Hotline (reception of appeals, redirection)

◈ Remote Psychological help

◈ Psychological assistance of mobile teams

◈ Distribution of basic help kits

◈ Evacuation of citizens

◈ Accommodation of IDPs (families with children)

◈ Human resources (volunteers)

◈ Charitable donations


Picture 2



The ability to set up “Hotline” is one of the most important services in an emergency. It is a telephone channel that accepts applications for assistance (need for evacuation, medication, resettlement, psychological support) and for redirection, because the conditional operator has information to whom a particular beneficiary can be directed with his request.


UCRN plans to launch a multi-channel call center, which employs experienced professionals. According to them, the Hotline is not just someone's phone number: "In the first hours of a crisis, a person is the least interested in psychological help. Everyone will call us: social workers, teachers, parents – with very specific questions: "What should we do?" and "Who is evacuating us?"


Remote Psychological Help (telephone, online) or mobile brigade of social-psychological assistance – is also important. There are plenty of online psychologists all over Ukraine, mobile teams work mainly in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions. These are the areas where the escalation of the conflict is most likely, they are ready to receive refugees, they have worked out the necessary schemes. A group of volunteer psychologists who have been trained and have experience in dealing with the trauma of war is also ready to work with the UCRN.


Distribution of basic help kits is urgent for the territories under potential threat and the territories where refugees can be accepted. Almost each region has organizations or at least volunteers who will take care of target groups.


Evacuation of citizens will be done by the organizations from Donetsk, Luhansk. Kharkiv regions. The two first one, obviously, have the experience of evacuating families with children and institutions. In case the conflict mainly affects Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Kharkiv organizations will help them. There are also colleagues in Odessa who are ready to evacuate people from a big city deep into the region or to the countryside in case of active hostilities. In principle, the map was based on the point of view that the conflict would affect only Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but also considered the risks of regions that share a common border with Russia – both land and sea.


The issue of accommodation of internally displaced people, refugees is also urgent. There are organizations in the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in the Kharkiv region, that are ready to accept people if the conflict remains within the current borders. Most of such opportunities in Western Ukraine are Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk regions. We are currently talking about organizations that can assist in providing such a service. This is not about a centralized evacuation to sanatoriums and dormitories.


Human resources – volunteers – is located in almost each region of Ukraine.


In principle, in areas that are in danger, the largest number of organizations is willing to work on the topic of escalating military conflict.


A number of organizations have focused on their readiness to render services, they are specialized in:

• Consulting and informational assistance, mediation

• Informational news reports, videos for mass media

• Fundraising

• First Aid to victims

• Services of daytime care for children in Kyiv (up to 10 children)

• Early intervention services for families of temporarily displaced persons in Odesa region

• Consultation of parents on the development of children aged 0-3 years


Conclusions:

The Ukrainian Education Platform has started transportation of children to safer regions. For example, Severodonetsk Child’s house is being transported to Lviv, Lysychansk Center for Social-Psychological Rehabilitation – to the Lviv region. The city mayor Andrii Sadovyi has announced that as of February 23, 2022, the city can accommodate 100 000 migrants, with consolidation efforts possibly 200,000. According to the UCRN, boarding schools in the Ternopil region are ready to accommodate 350 children from both institutions and the PS and DBST. The Zakarpattia region will be able to provide shelter for 1,000 children, patronage is not yet discussed.


In 2014, children who were deported from Donetsk and Luhansk regions to camps in the Odesa region received meals for a long time from volunteers and NGOs, and the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation paid for utilities in these camps. It should not be forgotten that this is also an item of expenditure.


The most awful thing is if the enemy comes to the West of Ukraine, where children from other regions will be taken. Where to move in this case, NGOs have no options. Unless the neighbors open the borders and the children become refugees in Poland, Hungary, and Romania.


The Ukrainian Education Platform requests for this report to be shared among FICE members in search for resources and places for children outside Ukraine. Priority categories, in their opinion, require the first eviction of orphans and family-type orphanages, shelters for women with children, families of children with disabilities, and then families with children.


The Ukrainian Network for the Rights of the Child will inform its target groups about the algorithm of actions developed during the escalation of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. After all, ignorance of this algorithm, as well as its absence at all, leads to even greater panic. And also concerning the fact that people are trying to protect themselves and, mistakenly, can come under fire, die. It is important that there is someone who manages these processes.


 

FICE-International condemns the current violence in Ukraine. The lives of all Ukrainian children, especially the 100,000 children living in child and youth care, have been turned upside down. Innocent children who have had to face one or more obstacles in their lives anyway. We urge all organizational and individual members of FICE-International around the world to provide assistance according to their capabilities in this time of need. We remain in close contacts with our Ukrainian FICE Member organization and friends. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine in full solidarity.


Action Plan / Statement will be provided at a later stage...



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