Abandoned by the State

Violence, neglect and isolation for children with disabilities in Russian orphanages


Date of publication:  15 Sep 2014 Publisher:  Human Rights Watch Publication type:  Report / Study / Data

Every child with a disability in Russia has a significant chance of ending up in a state-run orphanage. Nearly 30 percent of all Russian children with disabilities live separately from their families and communities in closed institutions. These children have a range of impairments, including physical disabilities such as limited mobility, blindness, and deafness; developmental disabilities such as Down’s syndrome; and psychosocial disabilities such as depression, among others. Children with disabilities in state orphanages may be subject to serious abuses and neglect that severely impede their physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. This report is based on visits by Human Rights Watch researchers to 10 orphanages in 6 regions of Russia, as well as on more than 200 interviews with parents, children, and young people currently and formerly living in institutions in these regions in addition to 2 other regions of Russia. Children described how orphanage staff beat them, used physical restraints to tie them to furniture, or gave them powerful sedatives in efforts to control behavior that staff deemed undesirable. Staff also forcibly isolated children, denied them contact with their relatives, and sometimes forced them to undergo psychiatric hospitalization as punishment. Children with disabilities who enter institutions at a young age are unlikely to return to their birth families as a result of the practice of local-level state commissions to recommend continued institutionalization of children. The Russian government has failed to adequately support and facilitate adoption and fostering of children with disabilities, although these types of programs formally exist. As a result, when children with disabilities turn 18 and age out of orphanages, they are overwhelmingly placed in state institutions for adults with disabilities. Staff in many orphanages also fail to provide training and practical knowledge that would give children the skills they need to live independently once they become adults. Children with disabilities living in state institutions may also face various forms of neglect, including lack of access to adequate nutrition, health care and rehabilitation, play and recreation, attention from caregivers, and education. As a result of violence and neglect, children with disabilities in state institutions can be severely physically and cognitively underdeveloped for their ages.

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