Tajikistan's Social Orphans

Analysts say poverty and a culture of dependence on government prompts many parents to place their children in state-run homes.

Tajikistan's Social Orphans

Analysts say poverty and a culture of dependence on government prompts many parents to place their children in state-run homes.

Friday, 15 May, 2009
As IWPR’s radio editor Zebo Tajibaeva found out, there are currently over 9,000 children in homes. This is about the same number as at end of Tajikistan’s five-year civil war in the Nineties, but the difference is that at that time many children’s parent’s had been killed, whereas now a class termed “social orphans” accounts for the majority.



These are children left in state care by parents who feel unable to look after them – they may be single mothers, or they may have gone off to Russia to work because there are so few jobs to be found in Tajikistan.



The experts’ best guess is that between 15 and 20 per cent of the children in state homes are true orphans. Only ten of the 115 residents of one Dushanbe children’s home, for example, fall into that category, and can therefore be put up for adoption.



Analyst Komil Jalilov says that for Tajiks, failing to look after one’s children would traditionally have been regarded as a shameful abnegation of one’s duty.



He dates the cultural change for the worse from the end of the Second World War, when the Soviet authorities spent a lot on provision for children in care. He feels that as people began to rely on the all-providing state, some believed it was acceptable to leave their children in care temporarily, until they could sort out their own lives and collect them later.



Komilov believes the money that the Tajik government and foreign aid agencies spend on supporting residential care facilities could be better devoted to helping vulnerable families remain together.



Najiba Shirinbekova of the Law and Charity group adds a cautionary note, citing one experiment where children’s homes were closed and the kids placed in their own families. Unfortunately, she says, little was done to follow up on these children and ensure they were receiving sustained, adequate care in the family home, rather than being allowed to drift into a life of vagrancy.
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