The world needs to treat adoption as the serious matter it is, insuring that the circumstances that lead up to the availability of a child for adoption, as well as the circumstances of the potential adoptive parents, and all that strands between them, meet the standards set out by the Hague Convention. Children are not products and must not be treated as returnable objects. Approximately 2.8 percent (732,000) of all children in Russia are living without parental care. Some 156,000 are living in institutions. In most cases -- about 80 percent -- these children have at least one parent alive. The priority for these children is to provide the services and support to safely move them back into family care. The vast majority of children in institutional care are over 5 years old. UNICEF supports adoption provided that safeguards are in place to protect children, birth families, and adoptive parents. UNICEF’s focus in the Russian Federation and other countries is to support Governments to strengthen families and their capacity to look after their children. UNICEF works with governments to diversify social services, develop day care services for working parents, offer counseling for families in crisis, inclusive education for children with disabilities, family friendly health services to soon-to-become parents and services to improve parental skills.
The earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and now Taiwan have led schools to talk more about how children can help in situations like these. Can you offer any insight into encouraging children to be involved in helping others on a day-to-day basis?
Children can help by educating themselves, by learning how to be good global citizens, by volunteering in programs such as the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program.
The troubles faced by children around the world are gut wrenching. How do you cope? And what would you encourage people to do to help?
Children are children no matter where you go and no matter what hardship they face, they still make you smile. Knowing that although we still have a long way to go, we have made real progress in the fight to reduce the number of children who die each day from preventable causes, helps a great deal. In the 1980s the number of children under 5 dying of causes we knew how to prevent was astronomical -- it was over 20 million a year. Today, some 25 years later, with the population having tripled during this period, less than 10 million are dying. But even one preventable death is one death too many. We must not -- and I will not -- rest until that number is zero.
Has being a parent influenced the way you approach your job with UNICEF?
I definitely need to balance my personal and professional lives, to make room for both. This means having a husband that is truly supportive and willing to be flexible. This means having a job where placing my kids first is easily understood and respected.