28 November 2017

What foster children write about

What foster children write about

Winners of Our Stories foster family diaries competition awarded at Moscow Planetarium

The winners were presented with certificates and gifts – tablet computers and Home Planetarium projectors. The 3rd Competition was won by 12 diarists in four main categories: “Enabling Family”, Ticket to Life, My Special Family and In with the In-Crowd, as well as in six special categories, which have been introduced by the competition's panel of judges this year. The Grand Prix of the Competition went to Victoria Strizhak, 18, and Olesya Likhunova, acclaimed by the readers of the website, won by Popular Vote.

Before the Awards Ceremony, the children from foster families went on a tour, where they saw space landscapes of the Planetarium and watched a 3D film about the Solar System on an enormous dome screen. The adults meanwhile discussed the challenges faced by foster families at the press conference titled Children's Stories and Non-Children's Problems: Foster Children with Special Needs.

The press conference was attended by Maria Morozova, CEO of the Timchenko Foundation, Elvira Garifulina, head of the Family and Children programme of the Timchenko Foundation, and Olga Sotskova, deputy head of the Vera.Nadezhda.Lyubov [Faith.Hope.Charity] Fostering Centre.

Unfortunately, families that take in a child with a disability are surrounded by many stereotypes after all, it is human to be afraid of what is new and unknown. But we hope that when the voices of these happy families have been heard by society, there will be fewer prejudices, said Maria Morozova when talking about the purpose of the competition.

Elvira Garifulina described the competition entrants. This year, the majority of them are urban dwellers who have one foster child in their family. Enabling Family turned out to be the most popular category - it accounts for 73% of all entries submitted. Top on the list of the states from where the organizers received diaries were Moscow Oblast and Krasnodar Krai.

The 2017 competition's focus on foster families with children with disabilities was no coincidence. Special needs children are the most vulnerable category of orphanage inmates. Once they come of age, they will spend their life in therapeutic homes. Yes, these establishments are under reform, but at this juncture we feel pain when we refer children there, said Olga Sotskova at the press conference. She also said that the Faith, Hope and Charity Centre had placed 37 children in foster care since 2014. They all continue living in families. Thanks to the family support provided by the centre's staff, no children have been surrendered. According to her, fostering of children with special needs took its first uncertain steps in 2014 and took off in 2015.

The press conferences was also attended by this year's winners. Aleksandra Ryzhenkova, a foster mother who is raising a girl, Vera, with Down's syndrome, said that she wanted to make her contribution to improving society: I don't want to live in a country where the only option available to a family with a child with disability is to give him or her up.

Victoria, the winner of the Grand Prix, told her story to those present. I have DTsP [infantile cerebral paralysis (ICP)], and I was hospitalized, talked with other disabled children. To my regret, many of them don't even know their age. And I am aware that, if my parents hadn't taken me in, I just wouldn't have known some basic things. Victoria is confident that: every child, whether healthy or sick, needs a family, and if the child should be diagnosed with a disability, he or she may not be betrayed again. Victoria herself was diagnosed with a disability when she was 2, and she had lived in a foster family since she was three months old. My parents took me in when they were doing paperwork for placement in a orphanage. Victoria thanked her relatives. I am 18 years old. Where would I be stuck now? In a therapeutic home? I am now a student and hope that I will have a good life.

Victoria not only took part in the press conferences, but also sang for the guests of and participants in the Ceremony. Routines at the Ceremony were also done by Nikita Izmailov, head of the Nevesomost [Zero Gravity] contact juggling school, and an Odukhotvoreniye [Spiritual] inclusive dance troupe.

The event culminated in a traditional cake for the Our Stories entrants.

The Our Stories Competition has been held by the Timchenko Foundation for a third year now; in 2017, the competition was joined by 110 diarists. Among them are biological and foster children aged between 14 18 years from families that took in a special needs child. Entries to the competition were also submitted by young people with developmental disorders aged 18 to 25 years who grew up in foster families, and parents raising a child with a disability.


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