The international Every Child Deserves a Family forum, organized by the Naked Heart Foundation, concluded on 17 October 2012 with a showing of Lyubov Arkus’s documentary film, “Anton’s Right Here”.
More than 350 child development specialists from eight countries and over 40 Russian towns came together in Moscow for the forum, which focused on issues of modern and effective support for children with disorders such as autism, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy.
The unique work undertaken at the forum brought together professionals working with children with special needs, orphans and foster families, as well as parents and representatives from state authorities. The forum was opened by the President of the Naked Heart Foundation, Natalia Vodianova, and the Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, Pavel Astakhov.
Also taking part in events were television presenter Vladimir Posner, director Avdotya Smirnova, actor and father of a child with cerebral palsy Sergei Belogolovtsev, director and father of a child with autism Bakur Bakuradze, television presenter Anton Komolov, gallery owner Irina Meglinskaya, journalists Valery Panyushkin and Andrei Loshak and many others.
Natalia Vodianova (President of the Naked Heart Foundation):
“Do you not think that there are certain double standards in terms of people’s perception of this issue? If for any reason a mother made the decision to abandon a healthy child, society would unanimously condemn her. But when she abandons a child with a disability, that same society not only accepts her decision, but vindicates it!”
Members of the Naked Heart Foundation expert committee, who led the main workshops at the forum, shared their thoughts on the outcome of the event.
Maria Ternovskaya, Director of the Pro Mama Centre, Moscow (Leader of the workshop “Professional support for orphaned children and foster families”):
“The forum is unique. For the first time in years, everyone has come together on one platform – specialists working with children with special needs, human rights defenders and representatives from state authorities. Until now, representatives from each of those areas met amongst themselves and did not manage to have a full and comprehensive discussion of the problem. But everyone is united here, which has the effect of synergy.
The issue of creating professional services to work with vulnerable families and children is an urgent one. Although a support system exists, it is institutionalized.”
Svyatoslav Dovbnya, Child Neurologist; Tatiana Morozova, Clinical Psychologist (Leaders of the workshop “Early intervention programmes”):
“We realized that there was a very great demand for parenting skills, but that until recently, this question was just not considered. Issues such as the provision of foster and adoptive care and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome received a huge response.
For specialists in our field, one of the main problems remains that of ensuring the continuation of work during the child’s transition from early intervention programmes to preschool programmes.
I should say though, that certain progress has been made in the field of early intervention. For example, not so long ago the Russian Association for Early Intervention was set up. There has been an attempt to standardize requirements and procedures.”
Anna Bitova, Director of the Centre for Curative Pedagogics, Moscow (Leader of the workshop “Innovative approaches to the education and rehabilitation of children with special needs”)”:
“Many people have approached me and said that our workshop, and the forum as a whole, has been an opportunity for the professional community to get an idea of new trends and new working methods.
It is obvious that there is a very great demand for information regarding new methods of working with children with autism and multiple developmental disorders. It is clear that people want to know more, but that there is a lack of literature and information. It has become evident that although some good progress has been made in this area in Moscow and St. Petersburg, thousands of children with multiple special needs living in the provinces receive virtually no support.”
Maria Ostrovskaya, Clinical Psychologist, Director of the St. Petersburg charity “Perspectivy”(Leader of the workshop “Children with severe disabilities and features of deinstitutionalization”):
“We have discussed various models of support for children with disabilities living in specialized children’s homes and for foster and adoptive families who have decided to take these children in.
The unanimous view is this – children’s homes must be completely transparent and open to community representatives. Inside these institutions, the set-up should be as similar to a family environment as possible. This view was echoed not only by representatives from non-profit organizations but also by directors of children’s homes and state representatives taking part in the forum.
In the long term, children’s homes must be transformed into family support centres and children from the homes must move into families. However, this will take more than 10 years.”
The response from experts and participants convinced the forum organizers that it should take place on a yearly basis.