By ChildFund Belarus staff
For 9-year-old Anya, who lives in the small Belarus town of Logoisk, the word “family” has varied definitions. She first lived with her biological mother and then in a foster home, and now she has begun a relationship with her biological father.
Anya’s biological mother could hardly meet her daughter’s basic needs; often, she was left alone and hungry while her mother was out. The girl never knew her biological father, as her mother prohibited him from visiting Anya. She moved to a children’s home after her mother lost custody.
In the children’s home, Anya was very shy. She was lonely, missed her mom and dreamed that one day she would have a real family.
In 2012, ChildFund, which has been operating in Belarus since 1993, began a media campaign with the Logoisk Socio-pedagogic Center to increase the number of foster and adoptive parents. The “Warm the Heart of a Child” campaign was made possible by the USAID-funded Community Services to Vulnerable Groups program. Local media, state agencies and businesses provided support.
The campaign featured pictures and details about real children from Logoisk. Anya’s biological father saw the calendar with Anya’s photo at a local doctor’s office. Eventually, he located Anya and began visiting her in the children’s home. The visits were a big step forward, as it’s a commonly held opinion in Belarus that contact with birth parents can emotionally harm a child in foster care.
However, Anya’s foster mother is an alumna of Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) training held by ChildFund. Through PRIDE, she understood the crucial role of the biological family in the life of a child and encouraged Anya’s father’s visits. The PRIDE model is revolutionary for Belarus as it is helping break down long-held stereotypes.
“I supposed that it’s important for a child to have contacts with biological family, but I used to hear from other foster parents that it would be traumatizing for a foster child,” Anya’s foster mother said. “PRIDE trainings assured me that family connections are essential to the child, and I was provided with instruments on mediating contacts with the birth family.”
Anya’s father, with the support of her foster mother, applied for family reunification and succeeded. Anya recently rejoined her father at home.
Other foster children from Logoisk have seen positive action by their biological parents, who have undertaken treatment for alcohol abuse and comprehensive rehabilitation to regain their parental rights after learning that their children might be adopted by others.
Similar stories have occurred in Lida, a neighboring community where stories about the campaign have aired on local television stations.
Learn about a teen with disabilities who attends a university in Belarus with the assistance of ChildFund and Community Services to Vulnerable Groups.