Children Instituitions in Azerbaijan
History of Children's Institutions:
During Soviet times, the need for residential homes for children developed for many reasons, including:
the increase in orphans after the Second World War
abortions were illegal
women were encouraged to have large families, winning a medal and receiving financial support from the Government if they had 5 children or more
This situation created a dependence upon the State to provide welfare for children without families, those who have been abandoned and those with a disability.
The care system is still managed by Soviet bureaucratic procedures and policies in a country which is in transition to a market economy and attempting to modernise its social practices. To reduce the need for institutions in the long-run, the system must be reformed to allow this progression.
The existing infrastructure is managed by 3 Ministries: the Ministry of Health (MH), the Ministry of Education (ME) and the Ministry of Labour & Social Protection (ML&SP).
They control 6 types of institution:
Internat (boarding school)
Boarding School for special needs
For the purposes of our work, we refer to them all as institutions.
Why do children end up in State care in a country like Azerbaijan?
Poverty is a major factor. If a family has 5 or 6 children and can barely afford to feed them all, let alone send them so school, one of their only options is to send them to an Internat or orphanage where they should be fed, clothed and educated. But no one really ensures that the child is studying - we have seen classes where half the children have books, pens and paper and the other half do not. They just sit and listen, or switch off as is more likely.
Social problems caused by poverty, such as alcoholism, prostitution and criminality also contribute to the growing number of children in State care. If a family loses the right to keep their children, the only option for these children is to be sent to an over-crowded institution, where they usually stay all year round. Many children are mentally delayed because of the family environment in which they grew up, and the unnatural environment in which they are now living further exacerbates this developmental delay.
All the institutions typically contain too many children and give very little opportunity to integrate with the outside world. Their future which would have once been secured during Soviet times (apartment - job - pension) no longer exists and they are not receiving the formative education they need in order to survive once they leave State care. This will only lead to an increased burden on the State because unemployment is high and crime is often the only option in order to survive.
For those children who have been abandoned because of disability, the situation is the worst. There is a great stigma attached to disability in Azerbaijan and a chronic lack of understanding towards these children's needs and feelings. Often, they are left lying in bed all day long because their problem is regarded as a medical condition. They must learn to fend for themselves or die. In many cases, the situation will be the same for children who are kept at home because the families are embarrassed by their child or have no idea how to care for and develop their skills. In order to change this situation, we must raise awareness of disability at all levels, train staff and encourage families to gather together for support, so they are less likely to abandon their children.
There is an urgent need to make child care more child-oriented. According to the UN Convention of Children's Rights, Article 3, 'in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a consideration.' In Article 6, 'State parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. State parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care State Program
On March 29th, 2006 President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on “Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care State Program”. Program’s implementation period is 2006 – 2015.
The main goal of the Program is to provide the formation and effective operation of the mechanisms of placing children in families and organizing alternative care to child institutions taking into consideration the importance of the child’s upbringing in the family environment – in the atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding for the holistic and harmonious development of the child’s personality according to the Convention on Child’s Rights.
Within the “Deinstitutionalization and Alternative Care State Program” UAFA closely cooperates with relevant state structures, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.
Fore more information about the State Program please see the link below:
The Azerbaijan Republic State Commitee on Family, Women and Children Issues