January 12th, 2013

Orphans need families, not money from the state

The Herod’s law, which bans the adoption of Russian orphans by U.S. citizens, draws public attention to the orphans’ problem in Russia. The number of orphans adopted by both Russians and foreigners has been declining since 2007. Though the government spends significant amount of money on foster care, it is unable to solve the problem.

The Federal Assembly voted for the Herod's law almost unanimously

The orphanages are not interested in promoting adoption of children since their funding depends on the number of children they are responsible for. If a child is adopted by a family, an orphanage looses money. If the number of children in orphanage falls below a certain level, an institution could be abandoned with its employees likely to loose their jobs.

The average spending on a kid in a Moscow orphanage is mounted to 33 thousand dollars per annum, well above the average spending on a child in a Russian family. However, this money doesn’t help to create decent conditions in orphanages. According to the recent investigation of Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, non-transpatent, corruption-like deals are widespread in the procurement for orphanages.

Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin still believes that the problems of orphans could be solved through pumping yet more government money into the state-run orphanages. Simultaneously with signing the Herod’s law he ordered to increase subsidies to families who adopted children. According to Ludmila Petrushevskay, famous psychologist specializing on helping families with adopted children, the emphasize on financial stimulus only worsen the problem. She cites cases when parents dismissed their children only to adopt them soon after that and receive subsidies from the state. Orphans, who are entitled to a free housing from the state, often become victims of fraud or spend their fortune on drugs and spirits.

The orphanage crisis illustrates the weaknesses of Putin’s hands-on approach. His usual solution to any problem is to increase financing, toughen regulation and appoint new federal bureaucrats. In this case decentralization and private initiative are more likely to bring relief to orphans than yet another round of state enlargement.

The Economist

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