National Director SOS Children's Villages in Ukraine
Through hardships to the stars - Per aspera ad astra
Today, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine is a well-known, respected national organisation in the child rights protection area. It is an equal reliable partner for the Ukrainian government in projects related to childcare. The organisation receives governmental support, including financial support for the SOS families’ budget. SOS families are a de-jure and de-facto family-type form of alternative care for children without parents. SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine is fully involved in the national legislation and changes in procedure in order to protect children’s rights better. Due to changes in its care model, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine is entitled and has power to advocate for children’s rights and participate in the country’s de-institualisation campaigns that reform the childcare system. Its programmes correspond to the community needs and can support more and more children in need every year.
But it was not like this some years ago…
This story is about changes which SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine had to implement in order to ensure a future for the organisation’s programmes and for children’s development in the future. Moreover, this story is about dreams for the future, and it is a story of reaching stars through thorns…
Everything began in 2010 just after the official inauguration of the first SOS Children’s Village in Ukraine in Brovary town not far from the Ukrainian capital.
The Ukrainian child protection legislation and child protection system changed dramatically and quickly during 2008-2010. As a result of these changes, SOS Children’s Villages was a part of a national de-institutionalization process being a private child education institution as a legal entity. This meant that the admission of new children to the SOS Children’s Village was impossible, governmental subsidies were impossible, support from society was impossible too. Basically it meant: No future for the SOS Children’s Villages in the country while the number of abandoned children was increasing in the Ukraine.
It was a disaster for the young organisation and for the whole SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine team who had invested a lot of resources and much time in the construction and opening of a new SOS Children’s Village in Brovary town. At that time, forty children were living in 9 SOS families and 4 empty newly constructed and fully equipped houses were waiting for more families and more children. The team was confronted with the dilemma to change recognition of the SOS Children’s Village model. Or to tilt at windmills by changing the Ukrainian legislation and include the SOS care model in the list of the national family-type care models.
Luckily at that time SOS Children’s Villages International developed a new approach described in the SOS Children’s Village Programme Policy (CVPP). This new approach allowed for responding better to the community’s needs, children’s needs and local legislation through innovations and partnership. And it was very important that the child was in the centre while all SOS interventions also had goals to respond to a child’s needs. The CVPP was like a magic wand, which helped to overcome the difficult situation! And the light in the end of tunnel appeared!
Mr Andriy Chuprikov, National Director of the SOS Children’s Village Ukraine, formed a team of like-minded people who wanted changes for a better future for children and the organisation. Mr Chuprikov was a leader of the team and a main locomotive for change.
Before any action was taken and even before the strategy development started, the team conducted a feasibility study in Kiev region and in Brovary town. The main goal of the study was to find existing community needs in the child protection area, to find the social gaps and to identify the role of SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine in the country’s social system. In order to have an external view, the feasibility study was done by external experts from a partner NGO. One of the study terms was to involve as many stakeholders as possible, including SOS mothers, children in our care, local and regional authorities, national experts and possible partners. In the implementation phase, it helped that the stakeholders had feelings of ownership for the changes and they supported the new SOS Ukraine strategy.
Based on the feasibility study results, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine developed a strategy for CVPP implementation, created an action plan and changed the organisational chart. The changes were based on several principles:
- best interest of the child
- child in the centre
- best response to community needs
- corresponding to country legislation
- helicopter- and out-of-box-view
- thinking about ideal dream
- stakeholder involvement
The roles between team members were clearly defined. Also several messages for the public and for all stakeholders were created. All team members agreed on the same messages and to speak with one voice about the changes. In all steps and phases of change, information and description about the changes were disseminated to all stakeholders.
As a result of the changes, the SOS Children’s Villages model was recognized and SOS families became foster families living in the SOS Children’s Village, receiving support from SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine. Three-party agreements between foster mothers (former SOS mothers), local government and SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine were concluded. Roles, rights and responsibilities were clearly defined in the agreements. Recognition of changes in the model allowed families to receive governmental subsidies for the family budget, allowed for a smooth admission process for children and put a stop to international adoption of children from SOS families.
In addition, new services like short-term foster care, educational programmes with local schools and kindergarten were introduced. In several foster families, couples with their own children were hired. Work with birth families and relatives of SOS children was increased. In the house of the former SOS Children’s Village Director, a community social center and youth center were organised, offering new necessary services for the local community and for the children of SOS Children’s Villages.
Due to changes in the organisational chart and the combination of specialists like psychologists and pedagogues in one family support department, the cost of the programme decreased due to synergy effect. They started to work with foster families and with biological families
SOS Ukraine also increased its work to support families of origin in order to prevent children’s abandonment. Together with UNICEF and other international NGOs, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine developed a National Strategy for Prevention of Children’s Abandonment which was adopted by the Ukrainian government and launched as a special decree.
The successful changes in SOS Children’s Village Brovary and the implementation of the SOS Children’s Village Programme Policy in Kiev and Kiev region opened a door to serious advocacy work from SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine on a national level. The successful CVPP implemention in the Kiev region also helped in opening the second SOS Children’s Village Programme in Lugansk region with new innovations. SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine established an integrated SOS Children’s Village in the community and piloted a project of children’s re-integration from institutional care to biological families. The Ukrainian government recently used the experience of SOS Chidlren’s Villages Ukraine in the reintegration of children for national recommendations, national methodology and standards.
Responding to new challenges in the country, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine started a new project with internally displaced people in Kiev and Lugansk regions after a conflict flamed up in Eastern Ukraine.
Today, 89 children live in SOS Children’s Village Brovary in 14 foster families. In addition, 26 children are supported in 10 foster families in Lugansk Children’s Village Programme. SOS Ukraine supports 1150 children in their families of origin through SOS Family Strengthening Programmes. This year SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine with support from UNICEF is implementing a special project for internally displaced people in Eastern Ukraine. The project covers up to 2000 children with psychological, social, pedagogical and material support.
But SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine has dreams for its future development (see details p. 47):
- 3rd location - overcome problems of Roma children and create kind of hub and methodical center for cross-country cooperation, experience sharing of work with Roma people
- Play main role in child rights protection advocacy campaigns on national level with UNICEF.
- Become self-sustainable member association
Maybe today some of these dreams look unrealistic, but SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine believes that a leader and a team of like-minded and committed people can reach stars and change the world, especially in a country where thousands of children are in need of living in a loving home! According to a saying from Roman Antiquity: “Per aspera ad astra”!
is National Director at SOS Children's Villages in Ukraine. He joined SOS CV seven years ago.
Prior to that, I worked for many years with diverse international institutions and organisations like the World Bank group, European Commission-projects and a leading private American NGO, all in the Ukraine. The areas of my work were business and management consulting, small and medium-sized enterprise development, marketing and investments as well as business training and coaching. These functions arise directly from my professional background in law, international economy and management with specialization in the International development field.
I am married and we have two vibrant, promising children with seventeen years lying between the first (a boy) and the last (a daughter). Though my family and I live in the outskirts of Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, I remember being born in the cold Siberian city called Tomsk. There I spent the first two months of my life and since then never returned to it again. Travelling wide at a young age with my parents through the former USSR and having lived in the Far East, Siberia, Kazakhstan and Caucasia, we finally settled down in the Ukraine as I turned 8 years old.
My life in society is a life for advocacy. To that effect, I participate in diverse civil societies like: the Public Council of the Children’s Ombudsmen Office; Ukrainian Parliamentary group advocating for the children’s rights; Public Council within the National Ministry of Social Affairs; League of Professional Women in Ukraine as a volunteer consultant.
In my leisure time, I love fishing, sitting at a calm place observing nature and the firmament, working in my garden and on my bike, exploring the surroundings. I love going swimming with my friends and I also love reading, with John Grisham as favourite.