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* Originally in Russian:
Postupniy, O. M., Chernetska, T. M., Dovgopol, M. Y. (2002). Prevention of addictive behavior among street children in Ukraine. In: Drug abuse prevention: organizational and methodical aspects. Concluding materials of the international project, pp. 151–177. Kharkiv: Finart.
The purpose of the presented work is to analyze the system of prevention of child homelessness and of addictive behavior among street children in Ukraine.
The empirical basis of the research consists of:
The term “street children” is considered from two points of view. On the one hand, the term “street children” is considered as a synonym of neglected children, i.e. children who lack parents care and pedagogical influence. On the other hand, they are regarded as homeless children. The object of our research was “the street children” as a wide concept.
According to the data of sociological survey, the most significant causes which force children to run away are: parents beating (30,8% children call this reason), using of alcohol by parents (28,3%), influence of friend company (26,4%). It is obvious that the group of coevals influence on teenagers is powerful but frequently not positive.
Despite of the spread of running away between neglected children, only 27% of them like the life outside home. 67,9% assert that such life is not good but is result of the life circumstances. After running away 23,2% of the children live on railway stations, 18,2% — “somewhere”, 16,4% — on garrets, basements, porches, 15,1% — in local trains.
43,4% of the children running away go begging, 33,3% try to work, 18,2% take money from relatives. 15,7% sincerely say they are compelled to steal, 14,5% take money from friends.
Although in the family the major of children exposes to beating, suffers from neglecting of basic human needs, 72,5% want to live with their parents, 17,4% — to live in the boarding-schools, only 1,5% — in street.
60,4% of the neglected children are drug users. Among the homeless children, about 100% use drugs. The most popular drugs are clue and other chemical substances. Most often (56,1%) children buy drugs, friends give drugs to 55,3% of the children, 8,8% get drugs in other ways (steal clue, cultivate cannabis and so on), parents offer drugs for 7,9%.
The main causes which compelled street children to try drugs were following: the influence of other people (58,4%), interest to new things (48,7%), the lack of activity, idleness (8,8%). It is striking but children’s knowledge about consequences of drug using is insignificant. 46,8% say that they don’t have knowledge about consequences, 20% — know almost nothing.
61,1% consider that you can refuse from clue and so on if you want (among children using clue regularly 90,1% think so). 74,7% consider that you can refuse from clue and so on if you treat (between children using clue regularly 97,7% think so). It seems that street children using drugs are more optimistic towards overcoming of drug dependence.
Two features characterize street children conscience: on the one hand, the lack of knowledge about consequences of drug using; on the other hand, the illusion about ease of overcoming of drug dependence.
From our point of view, the main cause of ineffectiveness of prevention of addictive behavior among street children is not the lack of money but the absence of well thought-out strategy of this problem resolve. The aims of this strategy can be considered: 1) the full liquidation of addictive behavior and of the social phenomenon “street children” or 2) softening these two problems. The differences between these aims are not quantitative but qualitative.
The Soviet State policy took the first aim. The Soviet Union had rear experience of the full liquidation of drug abuse and child homelessness. Each homeless child was taken under the State care. The State used compulsion. The main subject of fight with drug abuse and child homelessness was VCK. It had all necessary resources: money, structure, personnel, power, laws. It was consistency, systematic character, sequence that allowed to liquid drug abuse and child homelessness as social problems.
The second version is presented in social practice of democratic societies. The main feature of it is denying from compulsion. The aim of this strategy is to help to everybody who needs the help and wants to receive it. Society ensures a chance for everybody to change his life.
The Ukraine State strategy lacks of the systematic character, it is eclectic. Besides, state structures deal with the consequences but not the problems. The main shortcomings of existing state structures are:
According to official data the amount of NGO’s in Ukraine is constantly growing. The healthcare and youth public sectors are very prolific in Ukraine.
A number of features make nongovernmental organizations more successful in dealing with system problems then governmental or commercial organizations. We consider the drug addiction among street children to be this kind of problem. Among those features one should mention high enthusiasm and personal commitment to serving clients of NGO staff, openness to new experience, flexibility of strategies of adjustment to client demands etc.
Our grup determined following features that make NGO’s unique and valuable service providers for street children with drug abuse:
à) range of services NGO’s provide to street children meet practically all kinds of their needs (except for clinical interventions that are not conducted by NGO’s for children with drug abuse, this service they usually get in state clinics);
b) the stress is usually made on extensive work with client, based on emotional connections. That is as a rule they do not drop the child upon his(her) reaching some age (as it is done in state shelters) instead they keep contacting his(her) and helping to maintain adequate social identity. This fact becomes the more important that early emotional deprivation and (since that) lack of basic trust to the world are believed to be the cause of children run-away and drug addiction.
The majority of nongovernmental organizations that took part in the survey become sustainable through fundraising (donations of local businesses). This makes them different from typical Ukrainian NGO that usually support it’s activities through participating in grant competitions by international foundations working with Ukraine. We think that the model of fundraising employed by NGO’s working with street children allows them operate on a constant basis (versus from grant to grant operational mode of most other NGO’s).
Beside the lack of financial support we discovered following difficulties to be common for NGO’s that work with street children (in fact this difficulties are typical for the public sector in Ukraine):
We consider that the series of round table meetings of NGO representatives, state authorities working in this field and journalists could create a powerful impact on this situation. The round table “Street children: the dialog in search of solution” conducted in September 17 by Sociology and Political Science Department of National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute” supported the actuality of this idea. The itself opportunity to share vision of the problem, tell about their activity and difficulties was appreciated greatly by the round table participants. We noticed the fact that in spite of most participants being introduced to each other long ago they rarely new about others activity in the field. It was proposed by the participants to extend this activity having organized the team that will act on a constant basis to discuss critical problems of NGO’s and state organizations in working with street children.
Thus we have to acknowledge that the state representatives as well as NGO leaders admit the information vacuum and the lack of coordination of their efforts in the area of serving needs of street children. They are ready for open dialog leading to synergy that can become powerful engine for overcoming most barriers in this area.
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