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Journal article

Improvisational international research: seeking to help children in Ukrainian orphanages sooner than later

Journal article citation:
Families in Society, 91(4), October 2010, pp.421-425.
The Alliance for Children and Families

Throughout the past decade’s tumultuous sociopolitical transitions in Ukraine, the number of orphaned children has increased dramatically, with the number nearly doubling between 1991 and 1999. In Ukraine, orphanages are a common means of providing care for children without parents. While much data exist demonstrating the negative impact of institutional living on child development and functioning in adult life, more limited data reflects the mental status of children while institutionalised. This study aimed to obtain preliminary data regarding the nature and acuity of psychiatric symptoms in an institutionalised child population. The instrument Conners’ Teachers Rating Scales-Revised (CTRS-R) was administered to a group of 78 children aged 10-14 who had been in orphanages since the age of 4-5, and the results compared to a comparison group of 80 public school children. The results showed that the mean scores of the children in orphanages were significantly higher on every CTRS-R subscale except perfectionism, with the results being particularly high for the anxious-shy subscale. Ascertaining the mental health needs of children in orphanages would inform practitioners and policymakers regarding programmatic interventions needed to mitigate social and emotional challenges in this population. Strategies could then be developed to increase social and emotional skills required for adjustment and adaptation into the larger community upon leaving institutional life.

Journal article

Disabled children and their families in Ukraine: health and mental health issues for families caring for their disabled child at home

BRIDGE Gillian
Journal article citation:
Social Work in Health Care, 39(1/2), 2004, pp.89-105.
Taylor and Francis
Place of publication:
Philadelphia, USA

In the Eastern European countries included in the communist system of the USSR, parents of disabled children were encouraged to commit their disabled child to institutional care. There were strict legal regulations excluding them from schools. Medical assessments were used for care decisions. Nevertheless many parents decided to care for their disabled child at home within the family. Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, when communism was replaced by liberal democracy within a free market system. Western solutions have been sought for many social problems existing, but 'hidden,' under the old regime. For more of the parents of disabled children, this has meant embracing ideas of caring for their disabled children in the community, and providing for their social, educational, and medical needs, which have previously been denied. The issue of disability is a serious one for Ukraine where the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 caused extensive radiation poisoning. This almost certainly led to an increase in the number of disabled children being born and an increase in the incidence of various forms of cancer. This paper is based on a series of observation visits to some of the many self-help groups established by parents, usually mothers, for their disabled children. It draws attention to the emotional stress experienced both by parents and their disabled children in the process of attempting to come to terms with the disabling conditions, and the denial of the normal rights of childhood resulting from prejudice, poor resources, ignorance, and restrictive legislation. Attempts have been made to identify the possible role and tasks of professional social workers within this context. International comparisons show that many parents and their children do not benefit from the medical model of disability, and that serious consequences include the development of depressive illness among those who find that little help is available from public services. (Copies of this article are available from: Haworth Document Delivery Centre, Haworth Press Inc., 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580)

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