Lately I've been reading various blogs and various websites and hear people making different statements about the "orphan situation" in Ukraine. I want to use this post to educate on some current stats and also help eliminate some of the twisted or unclear information that people often state as fact.
I'm not claiming to be an expert on statistics in anyway--but I'm drawing from the most current stats we use in our ministry that were gathered by the ministry of Family Youth and Sport in Ukraine and additionally gathered by some partners of ours in Kiev that did extensive research. The stats were taken in 2008, but are the most current that we have.
The most common statistic that is often quoted is that there are "100,000 orphans in Ukraine." This statistic alone is quite misleading, as adoptive families come over and are shown very few children at the adoption department and are left thinking, "I thought there were 100,000 children in need of a good home, and now there seems to be hardly any!"
Let's shed some light on that stat of 100,000...
According to government information there are officially 103,000 orphans and children deprived of parental care. However this number can be misleading, as this includes the number of children that are in guardianship care, foster families, and living with relatives. This is not the number of children living in orphanages.
30,000 children are being raised in state institutions for orphans and children deprived of parental care (11% of children are under 7 years old; 89% of children are between 7-18). This number is also confusing, as this is the number of children living in the orphanages who have orphan status. This means parental rights have been terminated and they are wards of the state. In theory this should be the number of children registered and available for adoption. But this number is not a representation of the number of children who are currently living in the orphanage. As many know, the number of children living in orphanages without official orphan status is very high. Sometimes as high as 50-60% in some orphanages.
The number that is lacking in all stats is the total number of children living in orphanages in Ukraine. Because not all children who live in orphanage are classified as true orphans, they remain uncounted. In reality the government should be able to have an accurate account of this number as we know that there are 275 state run orphan institutions in Ukraine (number from 2008)--however the amount of children being raised in those institutions does not seem to be public knowledge.
Clearing up old/wrong information...
I've heard quotes lately that there are 100,000 orphans living in orphanages and another X amount living on the streets because the orphanages are all full. This information is misleading and not correct. The orphanages are far from over-crowded in Ukraine, if anything they are getting smaller as foster care is increasing and many have been closed as kids have been shifted. Though there remain street children issues in Ukraine, the problem is much less severe than it was 10 years ago. Kids on the street have either run away from orphanage situations or from negative home situations-- but it is not because orphanages are full.
5-10 years ago it used to be that at the age of 16, orphans would be finished at the orphanage and turn to life on their own- who knows where, with no money and no assistance in life. In the recent 3-5 years this situation has drastically changed. Some orphanages have schooling till grade 9 whereas others have schooling to grade 11 (up to age 18 in some institutions). Upon completion it is the director's responsibility to see that their graduates are placed in trade schools and technical colleges in the nearest region. Though they are given almost no choice as to what education they'd like to receive, the cost of this education is covered by the government and they are given housing and a living stipend. This stipend continues until they are 23 years old, as long as they continue to study. The stipend varies and depends on the region and what is provided by the trade school. So some trade schools provide clothing and food and a low stipend, and others provide a higher stipend and no food and clothing. Personally we know of kids getting 550 grivna--2,000grivna a month ($70-$250) depending on the region they live and the basic provisions of the trade school.
However, just because they are no longer "kicked out on the street" the situations surrounding their post orphanage life is not much brighter...
Consequences of being raised in an institution
Only 16% of orphanage graduates have families
Only 25% of orphanage graduates have stable employment
Only 1% of orphanage graduates obtain higher education (University)
Only 44% of orphanage graduates receive some kind of technical training (completion)
What are children afraid of when they graduate from the orphanage?
76% of children are afraid to leave their institution
70 % believe that they will not be able to get a good education and obtain the profession of their dream
52 % are afraid that they will not have a place to live
54 % are afraid that they will not have enough money for transport, food, and other necessities.
50% think that they will not be able to find a job
30% are afraid that they will remain alone and have no support
27% are afraid they will succumb to bad influences
26% are afraid of the negative attitudes towards themselves in comparison to “home” children
10% are afraid to live with strangers (even if they are their relatives)
18% have no clue what it is to live independently
These are all very troubling stats and remind us of the continued need to work with these youth.
In light of what is mentioned above, the statistics that give me hope for the growing orphan care movement in Ukraine are these:
28,500 Christian churches in Ukraine (9,700 of them protestant or evangelical)
Over 280 Christian missions
Over 400 Christian rehabilitation centers
I am very excited to share that there is a new movement among Christians in Ukraine surrounding adoption and orphan care. My organization is partnering with about 5 other key organizations in Ukraine and Compassion International to host the 1st ever all National conference to launch an Aliance called "Ukraine Without Orphans." The conference will be in November and we plan on having about 500 leaders, pastors and people passionate about caring for the fatherless in Ukraine. The goal is to approach these issues before society and government as a united front and see drastic changes in the near future as the body of Christ raises up in Ukraine to protect the rights of the fatherless.
Good things are happening in Ukraine...so keep praying!