$1.5 million database for Kazahk orphans and potential parents: Dealing with corruption in orphanages
Orphanages and adoption has become a sore spot of the child protection in Kazakhstan for a number of reasons. In spring 2014, a Kazakh lawmaker Dariga Nazarbayev suggested closing down all 184 institutions involved in the care of orphans including orphanages, youth houses, group homes and Dom Malyutki orphanages for babies. The ultimate goal behind Nazarbayeva’s suggestion was ensuring that all 32,362 registered orphans and social orphans eventually have families.
But to realize Nazarbayeva’s idea, major changes are required in Kazakhstan’s adoption system. As the conventional wisdom goes, adoption of a healthy child from an orphanage is close to impossible thanks to heads of local orphanages and other officials involved in the process of adoption. Adoption of a child with health issues, too, is not an easy thing to do in Kazakhstan. The conventional wisdom would have turned into some sort of an urban legend, if it had no facts to back it up. Earlier, Deputy Prosecutor General Andrey Kravchenko talked about key problems in the Kazakhstani adoption system.
First and foremost, corruption cripples the Kazakh adoption system robbing orphans of a chance for a family. Between 1999 and 2006, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Kazakhstan detected 165 cases of adoption by foreigners that did not follow the regulations and procedures. According to the state legislation, Kazakhstani citizens have a priority in adoption. Foreigners, in turn, can adopt children that were not adopted by local families. Then again, it is not a new practice. Yet, thousands of Kazakhstani families continue to wait for their turn for adoption. Meanwhile, some dishonest heads of orphanages, adoption committees and others wait for families willing to pay for a child.
Another conventional wisdom says that orphanage officials never show healthy children for adoption. Corruption weaves its way through again. But Kravchenko outlined another important problem here: children do not have equal opportunities for adoption when hidden from potential adoptive parents.
Kravchenko suggested opening an official database for orphans and potential adoptive parents from all over Kazakhstan. “Our project was approved by the government. $1.5 million have been allocated from the 2015-2017 state budget for the creation of the official database,” Kravchenko said.
“Giving officially registered potential adotive parents direct access to the database with the information about all orphanes, would elimitate subjective interference of corrupt officials in choosing a child,” Kravchenko explained.
The project is especially relevant today, as the Prosecutor General’s Office observes a growing number of child-sale related crimes. While in 2012 there were 2 child-sale cases discovered, in 2013 there were 25 cases. In 2014, the Prosecutor General’s Office registered 15 crimes related to sales of child.
“In each of these cases, individuals bypass the exhisting regulations for adoption and turn to maternity hospitals to buy children. Medical and social service personnel become middlemen and in some cases the sellers of newborns abandoned by parents. For instance, two workers of a maternity hospital in South Kazakhstan Oblast were sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment for selling a newborn for $6 thousand. A member of the adoption committee of Zhambyl Oblast was sentenced to 7.5 years of imprisonment for helping a mother sell a baby for $900,” the Prosecutor General’s Deputy said.
Candidates for adoption face difficulties both on beauratcatic and administrative levels, which complicates the adoption process even more. The waiting period lasts for months and months, sometimes even years.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, there are 2,813 officaily registred candidates for adoption of orphans. “I think in reality there are more families and individuals willing to adopt a child. We found 457 individuals who adopted children without being officially registered as candidates for adoption,” Kravchenko stated. Orphans who can be adopted, too, are not properly registered by the state.
While officials are working on elimination of the flaws in the adoption system of Kazakhstan through the implementation of the database project, dishonest and heartless individuals live off the desperation of future adoptive parents and tragedy of orphaned children.
By Gyuzel Kamalova (Assel Satayeva contributed to the story