Emergency assistance to socially excluded

National Center for Missing Children to Open

The Moscow Times, 11 Jan 10, article

 A new national center will be set up to find missing children and to curb the spread of child pornography as Moscow brings its practices into line with UN norms, Russia’s first children’s ombudsman said Tuesday as he marked his first 100 days in office.

Alexei Golovan, who was promoted by President Dmitry Medvedev to the new post after serving as children’s ombudsman in Moscow, also painted a grim picture of children’s rights, saying hundreds of children are abused, abducted and killed across the country every year and the federal government has not had a program in place to assist them since 2000.
“The statistics are very sad,” Golovan said at a news conference.
He said 1,197 sexual abuse cases were reported over the first nine months of the year, while 518 children were killed by adults and 63 were abducted.
Police registered 12,500 children as missing last year, while about 7,000 live on Moscow’s streets, according to a new report released by Golovan and UNICEF.
Golovan said he was working on a new federal policy on children that would include the creation of the national center for missing and exploited children. He did not say when the center would open.
One of the tasks of the center will be to stop the widespread distribution of child pornography on the Internet. “Many of those missing children get involved in the pornography industry that is spreading on the web,” Golovan said.
He added that Russia needed rehabilitation centers that offer counseling to abused children. “There are nearly no rehabilitation centers where children can receive help after they have been subjected to violence because it requires a lot of money,” he said.
He offered few other details about his planned policy on children, saying only that it would differ sharply from the previous one, which ran from 1995 to 2000, because it would follow the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 1989 convention, published on UNICEF’s web site, spells out a child’s right to survival, to develop to the fullest, to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation, and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
Medvedev has ordered all 83 of Russia’s regions to appoint children’s ombudsmen after naming Golovan as the federal ombudsman on Sept. 1, the first day of school.
The new report, which was released Monday, says 2,000 to 7,000 children run away from Moscow homes “due to a complex of social, economic, political and cultural problems.”
As the temperature hovered near minus 30 degrees Celsius in parts of Moscow on Tuesday, homeless people crowded in underground passages at the three train stations at Komsomolskaya Ploshchad. But no children could be seen among them.
“I’ve lived here for half a month, but I haven’t seen any children yet,” said one panhandler who only gave his first name, Sergei. “I heard they are all hiding at some other underground places.”
In the 1990s, street children were readily seen near Moscow’s train stations. Now many of them are hiding in basements and attics, which makes it harder for the social services to find them, the report said.
Eleonore Senlis, a social worker with Samusocial Moskva, a nonprofit organization assisting homeless children, suggested that the number of homeless children has not changed, just their whereabouts have.
“There has been a decrease in their numbers inside the center of Moscow. There may be the same number, but now on the borders of Moscow, because they are staying in less obvious places,” she said.
The main reason that children run away from home is alcoholic parents, while they live on the street for an average of seven to 12 months, the report says.
Most of them, about 64 percent, survive by panhandling, while nearly all of them smoke and half use drugs, it says.
Many children interviewed for the report said they would like to return to their families despite the problems that had caused them to run away. “But if one of them has lived for six months on the street, it’s very difficult for him to return to a normal life,” Senlis said.
16 december 2009
by Alexandra Odunova
The Moscow Times