Monday, August 26, 2019

Only 10 Percent of Russian Orphanage Graduates Live to 40

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – Only one orphanage graduate in ten in Russia lives to age 40, far less than the average of the mid-60s ( In part, this reflects the fact that many children put in orphanages by their living parents are handicapped in some way. But only in part.

            The overwhelming reason is that Russian orphanages do not teach their residents life skills, and consequently, when they are released in their late teens, the new adults are still at the level of children in many respects and do not know how to exist in the larger society and the programs the Russian state has for them are underfunded and ineffective.

            Formally, Russian law requires that orphanage graduates be given their own apartment in the same region where they grew up or their rent paid. But that often doesn’t happen.  In Novosbirsk, for example, of the 1285 graduates, only 28 last year were provided with the housing the law says they are supposed to get.

            At that rate – and assuming that there are no new orphanage graduates appearing – those on the current list will all receive housing in 46 years – long after many of them have died.  Many of those waiting are effectively thrown on the streets and hide out in vacant apartments fearing for their future.

            But that is only part of the problem. Even those who do get housing don’t know how to apply for work, use public transport, get medical help or do many of the things that society expects its adults to be able to do. In the words of the small group of activists who try to help them, “no one needs ‘yesterday’s children’s home inmates’” once they are released.

            The nine members of the Be Human group in Novosibirsk tell Elena Sycheva of the SibReal portal that almost no one cares what happens to these child-adults and that their group does what it can, not by providing money to these unfortunates but by listening to their problems and helping them learn the ropes of adult life (

                In the orphanages, most of the children have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep; but they are not provided with the life skills they need on their release.  And once they are released, these child-adults “quickly come to understand that no one needs them. They find it hard to adapt [because] they do not know how to do anything,” one volunteer says. 

            The Be Human group tries to help. It doesn’t ask for money or give any: its members simply try to provide human assistance. As another volunteer says, “we do not have big successes in the generally accepted meaning of the word. There is no story with a happy end when someone gets into a university or is happily married.”

            “But our children are alive, they have children, those who are sick get help.  We don’t work any miracles. This is simply life.”  But these good people are doing more than anyone else so that these unfortunates can live.  That is no small thing.

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