To eradicate orphanhood, it is necessary to support socially vulnerable families, experts believe.
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The problems of orphans occasionally raise in the Uzbek society after impactful journalistic materials or scandals erupting in the social networks. Most experts believe that orphanages should be closed, and children should be sent to their own families and supported.
We consider the data and analyze how many orphans are there in Uzbekistan, why are they left without parents and is it easy to adopt a child.
How Many Orphans Are There in Uzbekistan?
According to the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Statistics, almost 30 thousand socially vulnerable children are raised in 135 children’s institutions.
Uzbekistan has a network of institutions for orphans and children left without parental care: childcare homes, Mekhribonlik [Mercy] orphanages, children’s towns [orphanage institutions – Tr.], SOS Children’s Villages and family-type orphanages.
The number of childcare homes has not changed since the early 2000s. There are only 13 of them in the country. Healthy children under three years of age and children with psychophysical development disorders under four years of age are admitted there with the possibility of staying until seven.
In addition to these institutions, there are also Muruvvat boarding schools for children with disabilities in the country. They are cut off from the outside world and repeatedly criticized. Today, about 2000 orphans are raised there.
Why Are Children Left Without Parents?
The most common reason children are sent to orphanages is when parents are financially or physically unable to raise a child.
The second are “other reasons”. Most often, these are cases when parents leaving to work in other countries send their children to grandmothers, grandfathers, relatives or acquaintances without properly registered custody or guardianship. According to the Uzbek legislation, if a child is left without parental care for six months, the custody (up to 14 years of age) or guardianship (14-18 years of age) must be registered.
As part of the deinstitutionalization reform of the orphanages, from March 1, 2020, the state increased the amount of the allowance for each child taken into the foster family (foster care) by 1.3 times. Now, it is up to 820 thousand soms (about $80) with a subsequent increase, not lower than the inflation rate.
In addition, potential parents will now be able to take children in foster care or in a family-type orphanage only upon completion of the special courses for adoptive parents.
These courses are organized by the district/city khokimiyats. Non-governmental institutions and individuals can also organize such courses, but only in coordination with the Ministry of Public Education and local khokimiyats.
Meanwhile, the demand for adoption is not decreasing. According to the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Public Education’s department Suhrob Khalikov, 2,500-3,000 people are waiting for their turn for adoption only in Tashkent.
Is It Easy to Adopt a Child?Despite the high demand, adopting a child in Uzbekistan is not easy. Adoptive mother Alina from Tashkent told about the difficulties she faced seven years ago, when, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, she decided to adopt a girl.
After addressing the Guardianship Department, she was provided with a list of documents that she needed to collect. There were about 15 of them. After collecting all the certificates, she was put on the waiting list for adoption.
She waited about six months. Then, she had to collect the same certificates again, for the Guardianship Department of the Yunusabad district of the capital, where the children’s home was located. After the regional khokimiyat gave permission, Alina brought the full package of documents to the children’s home. In the application, she indicated what gender and age she wanted the child, after which she was put on a list again in this institution.
Eight months later, the director called her and invited to come and meet the child. After that, she had to wait another eight months.
“They gave me a baby and said that if I like the baby, I can start registering the documents. Previously, khokimiyat issued all the permits, and it all took about a week, but by the time I wanted to adopt, everything changed. The civil court began to issue the permissions. It was terrible!” she says.
She had to wait another five months. Then, she went through the long waits for the proceeding; no one knew what and how to do, even the judge. Alina says that the long delays were unreasonable, since her child was abandoned.
“After work, I went to the children’s home to my daughter and waited for this to end. The court issues a permission and puts one seal, then you have to wait another 20 days, and only then, when the second seal is put, you can take the child. 20 days were provided to challenge the court decision. Although I believe this was not necessary. Her mother abandoned her immediately after her birth. When I took my baby from the children’s home, she was already 6.5 months old.
“In general, after all these circles of hell, I was in a dead end, and no one knew how to get out. Then, the Guardianship Department’s representatives agreed with the court and they issued a permission to take my daughter home,” Alina said in CABAR.asia interview.
In June 2020, during a video conference by the National Commission on Combating Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labor, the Chairperson of the Senate of the Parliament of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbaeva stated that Uzbekistan has a high rate of trafficking of babies.
In 2018, such violations accounted for 38% of all crimes in the field of human trafficking, in 2019 – 43%. In 2019, 72 people tried to sell children.
Some believe that the overly complicated and lengthy official adoption process causes this. However, Nikolai Nalitov, one of the organizers of the volunteer movement of adoptive parents in Tashkent, believes that it is necessary not to simplify the adoption system, but to make it understandable and transparent:
“If you are not ready to spend your time on papers, then you are not ready to spend time on adopted child. I agree that the collecting the documents for adoption and the whole process is not easy, but this is the time to prepare, gain knowledge, meet the right people who can support you in the future.”
Often, the children who enter the family have experienced psychological trauma, violence, neglect, and exploitation. These children need help; they need strong, loving adults nearby who know how to help them. However, often, good kind people become helpless against the problems of the child’s adaptation in the family.
Therefore, the most difficult thing is not to collect certificates, but to live with a child who will enter your family,” Nikolai said.
How to Adopt a Child?
Foreign citizens from the states that have their diplomatic missions in Uzbekistan can also adopt a child. To do this, they must personally be present in the country when considering adoption issues and submit a petition to the embassy or consulate, including the following information:
- date of birth,
- place of residence,
- full names of the future adoptive parents,
- information about the financial position,
- medical report on the adoptive parents’ health (certificates from narcological, psychiatric, anti-tuberculosis and other institutions),
- moral and psychological climate of the family,
- recommendations for future adoptive parents (from the embassy or consulate)
How the Orphanhood Problem Can Be Solved?
“We see the most effective solutions to the orphanhood problem in providing professional assistance to families in crisis, at risk. The family, which for various reasons is not able to provide care for their baby, is the source of the orphanhood problem, the root of it. A foster family should be an exception, but not a rule for resolving the orphanhood issues,” Nikolai says.
According to him, family-type orphanages are the same orphanages, only their mini-version. Children just find themselves in an environment where there is no director, but there are people who work as mother and father. However, the problem is not that there are orphanages in the country, but that there are orphans.
“There are little citizens who were left without parents. The reason of this problem is that no one is involved in the prevention of social orphanhood. It is necessary to help the biological family to raise the child: to find a job for themother, to cure the father of alcoholism, to support the family financially,” he says.
The Republican Center for Social Adaptation of Children joined the parents’ volunteer movement in Tashkent, and they are helping foster parents. Now, they organize meetings of the adoptive parents’ club, provide them with psychological support and share experiences, raise and discuss acute issues related to adopted children.
There are also plans to create an Association of Adoptive Parents, which will support families and eradicate orphanhood in the country.
“The experts around the world say that a child is better off in a biological family. A child should be admitted to the orphanage only when it is unsafe to stay with the biological parents. The second environment where the child is best off is a family-type custody. In my opinion, grandparents, aunts and uncles raising an adoptive relative also have the right to receive the financial assistance and education from the state, since they are taking on commitments that they did not originally plan,” Nikolai believes.