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Problems of Church care of orphans

Children left without parental care: the past and the present

A child who has neither mom nor dad is a disaster. It is a disaster equally for the child and society and state. A mature, independent and responsible person would grow only in an atmosphere of love and care. A person deprived in his childhood of this essential condition for his growth will be affected for life. At present, almost 80% of the children deprived of parental care in Russia are the ones who were born by those who themselves were deprived of family upbringing. A person who has no experience of life in a family is usually unable to live later in his own family. A family crisis is a consequence of a moral crisis. The evidence of this fact leads our contemporaries to understand increasingly that it is impossible to overcome such crises without the beneficial help of the Church. On her part, the Church also comes to aid to all those who suffer, primarily children. With each year, an increasing number of parish communities and monasteries would respond to the pain of orphaned children. The primary help to these children involves giving them an opportunity to participate in church sacraments, such as Baptism, Anointment and the Eucharist, and an opportunity for them to receive religious education. Gifts given to orphanages and asylums, actions and events arranged for orphaned children and, finally, asylums and orphanages established for them and patronized by church communities and monasteries is another contribution that the Church has made to the care of children deprived of parental care. As the Church revives her patronage of orphans, it is increasingly relevant to compare the ways and methods of care for children in Russian history and to analyze what elements of Russian and world wide experience must be taken into account today.

A history of the care of children in Russia

Pre-October 1917 period

The care of children in Russia developed as a history of emerging and developing ideas about the care of children whose parents refused to raise them up. The cases where orphaned children whose parents died had to be fostered are rather few because in such a tragic situation an orphan was taken by his or her nearest relatives who assumed responsibility for his or her raising. The public fosterage concerned first of all foundlings and illegitimate children. Society also assumed responsibility for the vocational training of orphaned children. The care of them was shared by the Church and the state.

It was Prince Vladimir who entrusted the clergy with care of orphaned children in 996. At the same time, he himself showed concern for them by distributing great charity.

In the times of "Russian Justice" (1072) - the basic law of the Old Russian State - the care of orphans was assumed by Prince Yaroslav the Wise and his sons. The Grand prince Yaroslav, using his own funds, established a school for orphans to raise and educate nearly 300 youth.

Under Ivan the Terrible, the care of orphaned children was made part of the duty of public administration departments in general and the church patriarchal department in particular, which exercised jurisdiction over orphanages.

Aid was rendered to the poor and orphans under Boris Godunov (1598-1605), Basil Shuisky (1606-1610), Alexis Mikhailovich (1646-1676), especially in times of adversity and in off years.

Under Alexis Mikhailovich, the idea of gradual concentration of care in the hands of civil authorities was further developed. Thus, the Conciliar Code provided for certain legal relationships between children "born from concubines" and children "born legitimately", with the rights of the illegitimate given a lower status than those of the legitimate.

In mid-17th century, the public care departments were established to exercise jurisdiction over "the orphaned and the poor". The Czar granted the Patriarch Nikon the right to receive their petitions and to intervene for them before the Czar.

In 1682, a decree was drafted to pose for the first time in history the question of opening special houses for poor children (illegitimate orphans). In these houses, they were to be taught to read and write and trained for various trades and skills "required and necessary in all situations". It was this draft that closed the period when the ideas of church-state care were conceived.

Comparing the history of church-state care of children in various countries, one can note a considerable difference in the ways of taking care of "illegitimate" children. European countries with the established Catholic tradition, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Austria, developed a more or less advanced system of foster institutions for children left without parents. At the same time, Protestant countries, such as England, Germany and Switzerland, refused to centralize the care of children as they found it immoral for society to have orphanages for illegitimate children as these orphanages were believed to discharge parents of their natural duty. In Protestant countries, municipal, public or charitable establishments contented themselves with care of children whose parents died or children whose parents were in prisons, hospitals, etc. As for illegitimate children, responsibility for their upbringing was placed upon the mother and the father, and if they are poor, on the mother's or father's parents. Municipal and public institutions assumed the care of an illegitimate child only during a (legal) search for the father, if the mother could not really raise the child at her place because of poverty. This system of care costs much less than the establishment of foster houses.

Paradoxically, the public financial support of a child born outside marriage with the lack of any financial benefit for a child born within marriage appears to lessen the value of family union and encourage by implication the illegitimate birth of children. It is partly these considerations that account for the tendency to establish a system of foster houses in Catholic countries and in Russia. Considering the ultimate goal of any educational influence, which is the salvation of the soul of a foster child, the Russian system of care for children was built on foundations different from those on which the Protestant care was built. The placement of an illegitimate child in an orphanage was in all respects acceptable both for the Church and the public.

The first institution to be built in Russia for orphans and illegitimate children was founded on the personal initiative and at the personal expense of the Metropolitan Job of Novrogod in 1707. The orphanage, founded at the Monastery of the Dormition at Kholmy near Novgorod with the personal participation of Metropolitan Job and called a "feeder of orphans", was the first out of nine more to be established shortly after. These ten "feeders of orphans" fostered some 3000 children. Metropolitan Job was guided by the idea expressed by Italian Archbishop Dateus, who arranged a foster house for illegitimate children in 787 in Milan. Indignant with the mothers who abandoned their illegitimate children, throwing them into ditches, dunghills, rivers, etc., he bought a house near the church. He appealed to his fellow citizens to "save their souls" by helping to turn the house he bought into an asylum for illegitimate children. Wet-nurses were hired for these children, and later on the children were trained for various trades. Metropolitan Job's feeders of orphans were arranged in a similar way. In 1715, his initiative was taken up by Peter the Great who issued a decree on the establishment of "foster hospitals" at churches, which practiced secret admission of foundlings. The hospitals were supported by the city and private donations. As a church institution, every asylum was directed by a matron who was responsible for the care and fosterage of the children. As the children grew up, they were put in service or apprenticeship.

The foster hospitals established on Peter the First's personal initiative began to be closed one after another after his death. No indication to the existence of any philanthropic institutions for illegitimate children, foundlings or orphans in Russia is found till 1763.

The next stage in the formation of church and public care of children in Russia is associated with the names of Catherine II and Ivan Betskoy, a statesman of that time. Ivan Betskoy, being a natural son of Russian nobleman I. Trubetskoy, was a highly-educated and widely-traveled man. As a person trusted by the Empress Catherine II, he was a privy councilor and president of the Academy of Sciences. He felt the need to introduce radical reforms in public education in Russia and elaborated, together with Catherine II, a state plan for developing a new, ideal, breed of Russian people, which reflected the romantic aspirations characteristic of the philosophy of that time. He set forth the principles and guidelines of this grandiose project in "The General Constitution for the Education of the Youth of both Sexes", which was approved by the Empress in March 1764 and was given the status of law. However, certain provisions of this code were enforced in a series of "plans" and "statutes" presented by Betskoy before and after the General Constitution was adopted in 1764. This project for transformation of Russian society assigned an important role to the production "through education, of a new breed, or new fathers and mothers who will transmit their good principles to their children and their children, in their turn, to their children and so from generation to generation into the ages to come". In this way the education of not only illegitimate children and foundlings but also children from troubled families was to become the concern of the state and the Church. Moreover, the public and family environment was presented as completely insufficient morally. Their corrupting influence as certainly harmful for children's development was to be eliminated so that a new breed of people could be cultivated. The education of illegitimate children, foundlings and orphans in state-run institutions was intended to cultivate them as the so-called "third estate" intermediate between the privileged and the taxed ones. Citizens who owed their education to the state were called "to serve the fatherland by the works of their hands in various arts and trades". Even before the General Constitution was enforced, a General Plan for a Foster House for Brought-in Children and Poor Mothers in Moscow was adopted, also developed by I. Betskoy with the help of Prof. Barsov of Moscow University, an authority in contemporary education. Presenting this Plan, Betskoy wrote, "I mean those innocent children who are abandoned by their wicked mothers or, which is even more wicked, mortified; who, though born in legitimate marriage but in abject poverty, are left to blind fortunate so that their parents could free themselves from the burden of raising them and thus squander on drink their possessions more comfortably". In September of the same year, Catherine II issued a manifesto on building "on public donation a foster house for brought-in children as a state establishment under the everlasting monarchic patronage and concern". The Synod sent out appeals to raise funds for this house. These appeals were to be read in churches throughout the empire and to encourage local authorities to build their own feeders of orphans and orphanages. The feeders of orphans built in various cities were intended to nourish abandoned children until they were 3 and then to send them to the Moscow Foster House to be raised and educated according to Betskoy's plan.

On October 21, 1764, the day when the Moscow Foster House was laid down, 19 infants were admitted to a house of Count Chernyshev, which served as a temporary facility. They were given the names of Catherine and Paul at baptism. Thus, the theoretical general plan for raising abandoned children began to be implemented. Concerned for a shortage of children in the house, Betskoy announced a 2-rouble reward for every child brought to it. Admission offices were opened in Krasny Village and honorary patrons' places. The Empress Catherine II opened a second Foster House in 1771 in St. Petersburg. Feeders of orphans were opened in dozens of Russian cities. In Moscow, though, the task of state care of infants looked bad and even worse in the Foster House branches. Thus, over 82 percent of the 3.147 babies taken in the first four years died. During some years, the infant mortality reached as much as 98 percent. For instance, only 16 babies survived out of 1.089 children brought in in 1767. A similar distressing situation developed in private feeders of orphans. In Archangelsk, 377 babies out of 417 under one year old died; in Belozersk, 19 out of 21 babies brought in in 1768 died; in Yeniseisk, 34 out of 37 babies admitted in 1767-68 died. In spite of the detailed rules introduced by Betskoy for wet-nurses and doctors working in the Foster House and the feeding of infants with cow's milk in a country estate, the infant mortality did not subside. Betskoy had to give up perforce his main task of raising all children under strictly controlled supervision. Following the example of foster houses in other countries, he decided on distributing children to village families. First, it concerned only children under 9 months, then children under 5 years and later even 7 year-old children. After that the children were to be returned to the Foster House. The foster plan contained detailed instructions concerning the feeding, physical development and education of children. "The guidelines included an interesting paragraph forbidding an early instruction (of children under 5 - T.S.) of children in prayer and their introduction to fairy-tales and devil's witchcraft, for all this confuses children's minds, clouding them with false notions". It is recommended to instill into them the knowledge of God (it is early for them to pray, though - T.S.), the love of animals, etc. In order to train their sight, it is recommended to teach them a little to draw and to read. As good and intelligent mentors were difficult to find, it was recommended to hire at least those who would not teach children anything bad or damage their health.

Boys were separated from girls from the age of seven. From 7 to 11 years of age, the children attended school an hour a day to learn the Lord's Prayer and the Creed and two special prayers for foster children. In school they were also taught to read, to write and to count. They were engaged in various works and needlework during the rest of the time. After reaching 11, foster children were apprenticed to craftsmen of "sober behaviour" whose treatment of the children was controlled. After apprenticeship, children could stay at workshops as craftsmen, especially those who married a foster girl. Such a newly-married couple was provided with everything they required for family life. The most capable children were sent to the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.

Betskoy believed the development of a new breed of people who would become good Christians and loyal citizens to be inseparable from the creation of an appropriate moral and ethical atmosphere. To this end, the foster children's sight and hearing were to be purged of whatever had even a shadow of vice. Secondly, they were to learn virtue from virtuous teachers and mentors who could be "held up as an example". Seeking to create for children an atmosphere of love, freedom, gentleness and joy, Betskoy reasons upon the mentors' qualities: "The mentors shall be perfect fathers and mothers and be with the children continually… Seizing every opportunity, they shall instruct them in righteousness and honesty, being attentive to all their conversations and actions and quarrels, and explain to them how abhorrent and intolerable vices, anger and injustice are; in other words, they shall instill in them the habit of obedience and work".

The practice, though, ran counter to the theory developed by Betskoy and his associates. "The General Plan of the Foster House…" failed to be worth the enormous material and intellectual expenses invested in its implementation. Therefore, all the foster houses and orphanages, except for those in Moscow and Petersburg, were transferred in 1775 to the jurisdiction of the Public Care Departments, which were now to take care of illegitimate children. After Betskoy's death in 1795, the Empress Maria Fyodorovna assumed the patronage of both the Foster Houses in the two capital cities. As a person who did much for the development of charity in Russia, Maria Fyodorovna could make a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of the public care of children. Thus, assessing the fruits of the work of the Forster Houses, she wrote, "The fosterage resulted in almost complete extinction of those under care, while the educational significance manifested itself in the complete unfitness of grown-up foster children for independence in working life… They proved to be the least useful for their fatherland and reached the next degree of degradation", adding that "an infant is taken up and raised, consuming enormous expenditures, and as soon as he enters youth when his character is formed and when the most difficult question for him is to choose a reality he finds himself kicked out of the orphanage; officials and society cease to be interested in him, and the long story of care can only poorly discern the steps and experiences which were taken to realize the means and efforts spent on his education".

The theoretical system of foster houses developed by Betskoy failed for many reasons. While considering naturalness and freedom in developing the child's soul, Betskoy actually begins with violence towards its best and the most natural feelings, namely, children's love of and attachment to their parents and to their nest. He tears a child in his tender age away from that powerful source of warmth and life which is family for him and seeks to replace it with his fantastic and artificial nursery. But is it possible? However nice a hostel may be, it will never be able to replace even the most miserable family. Substituting a living reality with an artificial surrounding will ultimately cultivate equally false fruits of fosterage. The greatest result that can be produced by the atmosphere of groundlessness and artificiality in children's development is a special tenderness of a foster child, in the words of Russian pedagogical researcher K. Makkaveisky, his "ability to be carried away to a realm of a groundless and sentimental love of non-existent ideal objects and to be disillusioned at the first touch with reality". This unnatural feeling prevents a child from developing a strong will and motives for achieving lofty moral ideals because the educational system is directed solely towards cultivating in him passive imitation and blind accommodation. Built on the principle that foster children will naturally come to virtuous life, Betskoy's system encouraged foster children to use the goodness of the atmosphere around them in a one-side manner. In this situation, a child can be expected to acquire good habits and disposition unconsciously at best. "Neither firm moral convictions, nor strong moral will are to be expected where only this factor works. On the contrary, this way will only encourage moral flexibility, habitual moral elasticity, tendency to adapt oneself to the environment - the characteristic which is far from positive. Without firm convictions, the moral habits themselves, however frequently they may be practiced, cannot be solid and will eventually lose their moral value altogether", K. Makkaveisky wrote in his Pedagogical Dreams of Catherine the Great and Betskoy: From the History of Education in Russia (Kiev, 1904). Stressing that a foster child will not grow strong in character and true moral value without independence in his thinking and freedom in his activity, Makkaveisky points to the most important condition of fosterage: "What is necessary to achieve this is a life, simple, natural, as it is", not those "walking instructions" with which Betskoy's foster children were surrounded. The ideal hopes to cultivate "a new estate" failed for many reasons, first of all, the artificial nature of theoretical constructions.

The idea to cultivate a special estate who owed their education to the state was given up after all as not wanted, after the death of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna in 1828. The government came to see in these illegitimate, unprovided-for citizens the proletariat alien to the state system. The 1837 Decree ordered that foster children should not be returned from villages to Foster Houses and remain forever in peasant families to make up a rural estate closely linked with the families in which they were fostered in the first years of their lives. In the early 20th century, the principles of keeping foster children in village families, as was prescribed in the 1837 Decree, was recognized as unchangeable and verified by several decades of its existence. Thus, N. Yablokov, a provincial public healthcare leader in the beginning of the 20th century, stated in his report, "The cultivation of craftsmen, factory workers or ploughmen in peasant families is the present task of all the foster houses which admit children. In sending a foster child to a peasant family, a foster house hopes for a continual link to be established between this foster child and the family of his wet-nurse. How far this link is achievable is shown by an endless series of examples making one to revere the warmth and good-nature of the Russian peasant. Quite often an old grandfather has forgotten which of his two grandchildren is his own and who is a foster child; quite often an old grandmother, a foster mother, is anxious whether her foster recruits would come back home from the army. The close affinity between a family and its foster child is such that a foster boy will never marry a daughter of his foster parents or a foster girl - their son; for they are believed to be brothers and sisters by milk, by family. The family gives an orphan abandoned by his parents, a "state child", this form of fosterage in which he becomes a member of the family, sharing with it his joys and sorrows and thus forgetting about his loneliness. This cannot be given by any other form of care".

Therefore, by the beginning of the 20th century there had established itself in Russia a firm idea of what the system of child's care should be. The necessity of foster houses was evident. But their basic functions included care of illegitimate children, placing them to peasant families for fosterage and their subsequent patronage over foster children living in adoptive families. In addition, the temporary placement of legitimate children from poor families to orphanages was viewed as another burning problem. In large cities, these two types of asylums were separated. Efforts were also made to decentralize foster houses in the capital cities and thus create a network of such institutions in provinces.

Soviet period

There were 583 orphanages with 29.650 children in Russia before 1917. The civil war and the subsequent years of devastation saw an increase in the number of children who needed public care. Illegitimate children who were abandoned by their parents no longer made up a majority among foster children in this changed situation. The young Soviet State in the person of their leaders declared its intention to establish a special type of public education of children in contrast to family and religious education. P. Lepeshinsky, reformer of education in the first post-Revolutionary years, defined the strategy of education in this way: "Neither family nor individuals nor groups can set and perform the enormous task of education as rationally as the whole society, the whole state can". In December 1917, the People's Commissariat for Public Care adopted a resolution "On the Abolishment of the Orphanage Board under the Jurisdiction of the Empress Maria". From now on, little orphans were to be taken in infant houses, while pre-school and school children in children's houses. These institutions represented a new type of children's public education that was to implement the basic idea of the communist education of all children at the expense of the state. By the Decree on the Protection of the Health of Mother and Child, signed by V. I. Lenin in January 1918, motherhood was recognized as a woman's social function - the affirmation that undermined not only family traditions but also the spiritual and psychological basis of motherhood. The systematic destruction of family declared by the new power led Bolshevik Badaev to make this typical statement: "Somehow or other we will make mothers agree to the nationalization of children". A. Lunacharsky had a somewhat different attitude. Speaking in 1918 on the ideals of social education, he maintained that "we have to think not how to take children away from those who seek to raise them in family, but how to provide for those who have found themselves outside family. The more so that they will grow in number". Already by January 1919, the number of children in public care doubled as compared to that of foster children in orphanages before the Revolution, and this growth continued with time:

  • Before 1917 - 583 orphanages with 29.650 children
  • January 1919 - 1.279 orphanages with 75.000 children
  • July 1919 - 1.734 orphanages with 124.627 children

The state recognized family upbringing as only temporary, to be replaced by public or social upbringing. Placing a child to any social institution therefore was considered to be a priority over finding a family ready to take upon itself his upbringing. Orphanages which had been established by that time were unable to take up all the children deprived of parental care. Therefore, the Commission for Improving Children's Life began in 1922-23 to attach children's institutions to Soviet establishments, such as trade unions, military units, industrial and trade enterprises, etc. Senseless experiments and a rapid shift in working methods for protecting children's rights only aggravated the problem of homeless children. Thus, in the beginning of the 20th when children who had left famine-stricken regions began to return home, a nation-wide campaign to re-evacuate children began to turn out to be a tragedy for those children who had been taken by new families and got accustomed to them. For instance, after dozens of children from famine-stricken regions had been placed to various families in Czechoslovakia, their return back home proved a problem because they almost forgotten their Russian mother tongue. Most of the foster families asked therefore to adopt these children, but the Soviet Government refused the request. Among the heavy blows struck on family traditions was the notorious "Law on Spikelets". The All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars adopted in August 1932 a Resolution "On the Protection of the Property of State Enterprises and the Consolidation of Public (Socialist) Property". According to this law, any person who encroached on public property was considered to be an enemy of the people and was to be executed by shooting. This property included the crop. Starving families and children were the first victims of this law. The mass political repression also affected family relations between orphaned children and their relatives. Children of the so-called "enemies of the people" fell into the category of social outcasts. All the attempts of relatives to take an orphaned child to their family were consciously stopped. The only place where an under-age child of an "enemy of the people" could be placed for further upbringing was an orphanage in which even brothers and sisters were almost always separated. The columns "mother" and "father" in the birth certificates of children whose parents were repressed were left unfilled. Before the Great Patriotic War, there were already 1.700 orphanages in the Socialist Republic of Russia, in which 187.000 children were fostered. The Great Patriotic War, which took away millions of lives of our compatriots, was the cause of orphanhood for thousands of children. Just as in pre-war years, the Soviet State recognized orphanages as the most desirable form of care for homeless children. By the end of 1945, over 120 orphanages were opened for the children of soldiers killed in action. There were numerous orphanages opened at collective farms, industrial enterprises, interior bodies, vocational schools, trade unions and young communist organizations. In 1950, there were already 6.500 orphanages in the country, in which 635.900 children were fostered.

A totalitarian state can have no place for strong family relations. A person raised in a united family is reliably immune from all kinds of social viruses and, being free and independent, presents a potential threat to any reformer. An atheistic state therefore seeks to enlarge the system of non-family care of children as much as possible. In 1956, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party in the USSR introduced boarding schools intended not only for orphaned children but also children from one-parent families, war and labour invalids and pensioners as well as for children whose parents, for various reasons, needed support from the state in employment, healthcare, living conditions, etc. The social structure destroyed in this way could not but affect the population growth. The rapid increase in the number of abandoned children in Russia at present can be accounted for by the long history of artificial alienation of children from family in the country.

The period after 1990

By ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, Russia has recognized the priority right of the child to be raised in family. Nevertheless, the number of children deprived of parental care continues increasing. In 1992, there were 426 thousand such children in Russia, while in 1997 their number amounted to 572.400, in 1998 - 520.000, in 2000 - 639.000. In 2005, the figure of 780.000 has been voiced. While the birth rate in Russia is decreasing rapidly, the number of children deprived of family surrounding normal for their development increases with every year. The study undertaken by Ms. I. Nazarova on "Orphaned Children: The Characteristic of the Problem in Recent Years" gives the following figures: in the period from 1990 to 1998, the number of children under 14 years has decreased by 5 millions in Russia, while the proportion of neglected children and teenagers in the children's population has increased. Thus, in 1990, there were 49.105 neglected children under 14, while in 1998 they were as many as 110.930. Arguing that the state is responsible for the system of care of orphans, the author of this study notes that the state alone is unable to solve all the problems in this sphere. The changed socio-political structure of the Russian State has revealed new forces (in the first place, religious and public organizations) which are ready to assume or have already assumed a considerable part of the care of children and to increase their influence on the education and training, the way children are placed, as well as control and management. Ms. Nazarova writes, "It can be stated that in recent years some signs of the move from the state-public placement of children and to that of the state, public and the Church have appeared in Russia".

The basic legally-established forms of the placement of children deprived of parental care in today's Russia are as follows: adoption, guardianship, patronage, the placement of children to special institutions, such as infant house, orphanage or boarding school. In recent years, an increasing number of Orthodox parishes and monasteries have begun to open their own asylums and orphanages. The difference between an asylum and an orphanage is that, according to the Russian legislation, a child can be put up in an asylum for up to 6 months until his further placement is clarified. Later he can be placed to an orphanage, or some other form of care for him should be found. Many specialists believe that detailed development work on a special legal basis for church care of neglected children represent an important means of overcoming homelessness among children in Russia today. Thus, in his address to the 13th International Christmas Reading, Education Minister A. Fursenko noted that orphanages and asylums at churches and monasteries proved to be very effective socially and pedagogically. Many communities and monasteries have taken care of children born by alcoholics and drug-addicts and abandoned by them. The system of care created for such children has many valuable aspects, first of all, the atmosphere of sincere concern that the children grow up not only as worthy citizens of Russia but also faithful children of the Orthodox Church. This certainly has a positive impact on the formation of today's orphans.

The problems however which the Church has to face as it organizes institutional care of orphans are very typical of any children's institution. Organizational, financial and legal problems have tended to be solved more effectively than the complex psychological and pedagogical ones. The psychological and pedagogical problems have an essential peculiarity in that distortions in upbringing are suspended. A wrongly arranged educational process will fully tell upon a child when he enters adolescence and youth. In this connection, the decent behaviour of orphanage children in the presence of strangers, their obedience to adults, their participation in public events, such as concerts, and other attributes of happy childhood are not regarded by specialists as indications that the formation of these children has been a success. There are fundamentally different criteria for evaluating the effectivity of the care of children.

Some peculiarities of the development of children raised outside their families

A child's continual stay outside his family, even in a nice orphanage or a boarding school, makes an impact on his development that many specialists would regard as a certain disablement. The family atmosphere, whether in his own family or not, determines a qualitatively different type of the development of his growing personality. Thus, a study of the development of children in an institution and the peculiarities of their behaviour, undertaken by A. Prikhozhan and N. Tolstykh for many years, allowed them to conclude that orphanhood has specific psychological features. They do not interpret them as mere retarded psychological development, but as a qualitatively different character of a child's development. Modern psychology and pedagogy offer a fairly holistic picture describing the peculiarities of the mental development of a child growing up outside family - his emotions, thinking, speech, peculiarities of his behaviour and relations with his mates and adults. Each age stage in the development of a child is marked with the formation of particular mental qualities characteristic of this age. The mental formation of a foster child in an institution differs qualitatively from that of a child raised in a family. A person who is far from the realities of life in an institution would not be aware of a single smell or several smells at best, such as chlorine or medicines or food cooked for a large number of people that pervades a "state house". The absence of family smells, which may be seasonal, celebrational, everyday, situational or regular, is only one minor aspect characteristic of the global otherness of the atmosphere in an orphanage or boarding school. Therefore, specialists use the notion of "impoverished environment" with regard to children outside parental care. The impoverished environment is also one of many components influencing the formation of an orphan's personal qualities. Relationships with adults, which in each age of childhood condition in their own ways the formation of a child's basic worldview, behaviour and communication with others, are institutional in an establishment as they are conditioned by the institutional rules, while in a family the relations of a child and an adult are personal and intimate. This factor leads to the deformation of mental qualities vital for any person, such as intellectual curiosity, cognitive activity, electiveness in relations with one's mates and those who are younger or older, as well as persons of one's own and opposite sex and many other.

The differences between family and institutional upbringing can be listed in several volumes. These peculiarities have been thoroughly studied by Russian psychologists and pedagogues. The general tendency in describing psychological characteristics of an institutional foster child is as follows: the emotional background of his development is very poor - which impedes the formation of a child's vitally important personal qualities developed in the direct and independent activity of the child himself. Institutional foster children have to adapt to the requirements of the environment, while family children respond to the environment actively, creatively assimilating it, whether it is favourable for their growth or not. A child's different experience of life and formation in an institution leads to underdeveloped emotions and will - which is proved by numerous examples. Thus, Ms. I. Zalysina compared the capability of empathy in high school children living in a family with that in those who live outside family. High school children fostered in an orphanage proved to be almost incapable of empathy toward people around them. At the same time, they were alien to both reactive empathy as a response to the emotions of others and initiative empathy as desire of a child to share his emotions with other people, to make them sympathize with him. Family children in I. Zalysina's study not only sought adults' and their mates' compassion, but themselves responded actively to the emotions of their partners and fairy-tales characters. The need of empathy is developed throughout one's childhood, reaching its height in one's older age. To meet this need, it is necessary that a child and an adult have such relations as to give the child an opportunity for speaking out and exposing oneself before another person.

Orphanage children cannot make their own assessment. Even if a child has such, he would not seek to adjust his attitude to that of an adult, he will only compare them. An orphanage child in I. Zalysina's study was very shy to seek a response to his emotion; his efforts were aimed basically at attracting the good attention of an adult. The formation of the need for empathy begins in one's infancy and is impossible without a developed emotional condition.

Subject to deformation is also a foster child's communication with adults. It is characterized by a child's intense need of such communication. A. Prikhozhan and N. Tolstykh write, "While showing an expressed desire for communication with adults and at the same time being highly dependent on them, institutional foster children show aggressiveness towards adults". The suppressed need for communication combined with inability to take responsibility for settling a conflict tend to form in an institutional foster child a "consumer" attitude towards adults and the tendency to expect and even demand that his problems be solved by those around him. Institutional foster children are less successive in settling conflicts in their relations with adults and their mates. Aggressiveness, desire to blame others, inability and reluctance to admits one's own fault, that is, the domination of defensive behaviors in conflict situations - this still incomplete list of features characteristic of children raised outside family renders them incapable of productive resolution of conflicts. These peculiarities generate "defensive conditions" in orphans, as a child, instead of thinking creatively, seeks to use patterns known to him; instead of being educated for voluntary behaviour, he is guided by external control; instead of desire to cope with a difficult situation himself, he tends to show an affective response, offence and to relay the responsibility on others.

These peculiarities do not exhaust all the characteristics involved in the formation of emotions and will in a child deprived of family care.

At present, specialists including psychologists, pedagogues, psychiatrists, have registered a dangerous tendency in the development of most children's public care institutions. Several years spent by a child in a typical orphanage or boarding school tend to atrophy the functions of the brain's regulatory block. Such a person lacks an internal program; he can respond only to actual stimuli and lives according to the "here and now" principle. Such behaviour is characteristic in some degree to all children and even some adults, but it is predominant in children deprived of stable personal relations. This syndrome is manifested in the inability of a person to perform independently a series of consistent actions which need that his attention shift from one activity to another, while his memory holding the final goal of his activities. Family children begin to master volitional behaviour in contrast to field behaviour already after they are 3 years old. Children need to master complex step-by-step actions with their own logic, order and meaning, doing it together with adults. But they master the most important things not so much through instruction by adults as through a shared life and independent assimilation based on imitation of the adults. Disorder in the development of an orphanage child's emotions and will would lead later, when he is to leave the orphanage, to his inability to establish solid personal connections allowing him to create a family and to master a vocation. The underdeveloped feelings and emotions usually have a negative impact on the spiritual development of a child. Archpriest Basil Zenkovsky describes the family feeling as a psychological cradle for the religious feelings of a child, stating, "The religious nourishment of a child is possible only in family; it is only family that develops a spiritual environment in which a child finds it easy to live in God".

At present there is a need for professionally coordinated actions of a whole team of specialists to overcome the disastrous consequences of the underdevelopment of a child raised outside family. Only in this case it is possible to provide an effective mental and emotional rehabilitation of a child and to allow him later to live an independent life, earning his living through professional, rather than beggaring or other improper and sometimes even criminal trade, to have a family and to raise children (at present, about 80% of the orphanage children in Russia are born by those who left care institutions). The establishment of such a system of bringing up orphans is a difficult and costly task.

The Kovalevsky Orthodox Orphanage at Nerekhta near Kostroma, directed by Archpriest Andrey Voronin, operates on a unique educational concept. It includes the organization of family fosterage groups of boys of various ages (there are only boys living in the orphanage, while the girls "attached" to it are raised in foster families). Each of these family groups or "families" has a flat of its own with all the attributes of modern family abode, such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet, rooms for two or three children, window plants and pets. Besides, each family has its own vegetable garden the fruits of which are consumed not only in summer but preserved for winter by children working together with mentors. The orphanage has a well-equipped gymnasium, a computer class, a domestic church and an assembly hall with a real fireplace, in which all the orphanage inhabitants gather together for celebrations and receiving guests. In addition, this orphanage organizes, as an integral part of its life, extreme mountain hikes, rafting trips, winter marches led by experienced speleologists, alpinists and directed personally by Father Andrey, a graduate of the Moscow State University Department of Geography. Our personal observations and results of the drawing tests conducted with children before and after the hikes as well as interviews held in extreme situations during two joint hikes have allowed us to make the following conclusion. Putting an orphanage child in extreme conditions in a preserved natural environment is a powerful factor that helps in a specific way to correct the distortions in his emotional and volitional development characteristic of the institutional upbringing. Having familiarized ourselves with the system upheld by the Kovalevsky Orphahage, we have learnt from Father Andrey that his original initiative before the orphanage was organized was an appeal to people in Nerekhta to take children left without parental care for fosterage in their families. Those who took foster children were guaranteed medical and pedagogical support in raising them and solving problems arising in the process. It turned out that nobody wished to take children. Thus, an idea to establish an Orthodox orphanage was conceived. The example of the Kovalevsky Orphanage has shown that making up for the absence of family upbringing requires enormous funds, incomparable with those given to families with adopted children, fostered or patronized. It has also pointed to the need to organize the raising process in a special way. This special organization presupposes the presence of correctional psychologists, psychiatrists, social pedagogues and many other specialists. Whatever is given to a child absolutely naturally in any normal family can be given him in an orphanage only in a specially created and exclusively favourable atmosphere.

These considerations make clear the aim and strategy of developing a public-church system of fostering children deprived of parental care. In the first place, it is the development of an institution of foster families. The churchliness of such families, the spiritual life of the adults and children in it are beneficial sources making good impact not only on adopted children but also parents themselves. The Basic Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopted by the Jubilee Bishops' Council in 2000, states, "The role of family in the formation of personality is an exceptional; it cannot be replaced by other social institutions. The destruction of family relations is inevitably combined with disorder in the normal development of children and makes a lasting, to some extent indelible, imprint on their entire subsequent life".

Stressing the need to give spiritual and material aid to neglected children, the Basic Social Concept affirms that it is the most important duty of the Church to strengthen family and prevent the disruption of traditional relations between parents and children. Family formation in today's world can find support only in the spiritual foundations of the family union. Other mechanisms of consolidating family ties in the situation of a secular order of life are little effective. The peculiarities of the development of children in institutions can be minimized by the ability of the foster children to create families of their own. The tragedy of the demographic situation in Russia lies also in the fact that a person deprived of an experience of family life is in fact unable to raise his or her own children. The vicious circle of the reproduction of orphans can be destroyed only by the creation of an atmosphere of family environment for a child. The role of the Church in consolidating family ties in today's Russia is obvious. A family living a church life in which all the family members are united by true love, which "does not rejoice in untruth, but rejoices in the truth, embraces everything and trusts everything" - such a family is capable of raising not only children born in it but also adopted orphans. Of course, parents have to go through a process of thorough preparation for accepting a child in their family. They will need professional advice from lawyers, doctors, pedagogues and psychologists. At present, there are already many schools for adoptive parents. These schools help those who have taken orphans for fosterage to overcome together the difficulties that arise in such a difficult process as rehabilitation of an institutional child. Thus, the Moscow diocesan commission for social work has run for several years now a St. Dimitry's Orthodox Course for training orphanage mentors, guardians, foster mentors and adoptive parents. The students of this course are introduced to the Orthodox teaching on marriage and raising children, as well as medical, legal, psychological and pedagogical aspects of care of orphans.

There is a Towards a New Family project working for several years in Russia. It helps to develop family forms of education for neglected children. The project staff, especially its chief specialist, Ms. G. Krasnitskaya, maintain cooperation with Orthodox care organizations, helping them by professional advice and recommendations for creating an atmosphere of family upbringing for neglected children. According to Ms. Krasnitskaya, who herself adopted a 10 year-old girl, the knowledge of the mechanisms of psychological, pedagogical and social rehabilitation of a child deprived of parental care and love helps to cope with arising difficulties by ninety percent. But for the rest ten percent in which knowledge is powerless, only faith, hope and charity remain.

T. V. Skliarova, D.P.
Head of the Chair of Social Pedagogy
St. Tikhon's Orthodox Humanitarian University


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  10. V. A. Varyvdin, I. P. Klemantovich. Management of the childhood social protection system. Educational aid. Moscow 2004.
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