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Understanding the Nature of Institutionalization for Children in Russia

STEPANOVA, EVGENIA (2014) Understanding the Nature of Institutionalization for Children in Russia. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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There is an ongoing debate in contemporary international literature about how state care provision is ‘failing’ children and young people in care. In Russia, institutional care is the most widespread with this type of child care placement representing 98 per cent of all out-of-home care facilities for children after kinship care (Groark et al., 2008; Human Rights Watch, 1998). However, since Soviet times institutional care in Russia has rarely been the focus of research or welfare policy debates aiming to explore and potentially improve the existing infrastructure of the child care system. Clear cut gaps in understanding of how institutional care in Russia operates include unawareness of basic everyday experiences of children and young people. This fact severely hinders the development of effective changes in policy and practice. Since Russia is currently facing record numbers of children and young people entering care, it is easy to see how the topic of institutionalization has become one of the pressing priorities on the national agenda (Philanthropy, 2011 ). This thesis aims to improve the understanding of institutionalization in Russia through a systematic exploration of a range of experiences within institutional care as well as an in-depth investigation of key factors and characteristics which define institutional being. Drawing on the philosophical underpinning of critical realism, this research challenges the global conceptualization of the institutional care focusing on how the institutionalization comes to be as it is. The data is obtained from a combination of two methods namely questionnaires with care leavers and care givers followed by ethnographic participant observation conducted in four child care institutions in Russia. The results of the study suggest that the process of institutionalization plays a role of a large family for children in care as well as for those who left care. Having both positive and negative experiences of care, institutionalization is informed and shaped by the factors of power, collectivism, distance and intimacy in relationships, suppressed individuality and wider society. Developed in response to provision of protection and safety of children, the imbalance in these practices often contributes to the bleak picture of care. This study addresses the substantial gap in the literature providing an in-depth portrait of institutional care and institutionalization in Russia. The thesis highlights that institutional being is the product of a complex interplay among individuals and a network of contextual, cultural, organisational, social and individual factors and characteristics. These factors and aspects need to be acknowledged and addressed where possible to support institutional being of children and young people.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Institutional Care Institutionalization Russia Children in Care Care Leavers
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Jun 2014 12:42

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