Poverty in Ukraine often leads to abandoned babies. This problem is compounded by cultural stigma around adoption. Women who took part in Legacy’s Ukrainian Women’s Leadership Project are combating this problem with pregnancy prevention training, mass media campaigns, a search service for foster parents, and coordination of organizations serving adoptable children.

Women present on their project in Ukraine

The problem of child adoptions in Ukraine has reached monumental proportions with mothers who cannot cope with tough social and economic conditions leaving babies in streets, delivery rooms, and public restrooms. More than 100,000 children (UNICEF) in Ukraine currently live in orphanages.

Participants observe classroom activities in the U.S.

In 2000 Legacy began a Women’s Leadership program in Ukraine to build capacity and enhance cooperation among women-operated non-profit organizations in three regions, and strengthen the professional skill of women leaders guiding those organization.

With one month of Legacy’s capacity building training in the U.S. and a $2,695 mini-grant, one participating organizations, the Social Protection and Assistance Center in Simferopol, took on the issue of unwanted babies.

Results of the Center’s two year project were astounding. In 2001, the adoption rate of Ukrainian families increased more than 600%.  Stereotypes about orphans and adoption were broken via 600 radio spots; 20 newspaper articles, and 20 TV spots. Viewers of this media campaign were moved,  one offered to build a new orphanage, another began work to abolish the confidentiality of adoption from Ukrainian Marital Law, and a new newspaper, “Search for You,” was created to match up orphans and potential adoptive parents.

Three villages with high rates of unwanted pregnancies were targeted with pregnancy prevention training for 140 teenage girls and133 parents.  Since the trainings, authorities confirmed that unwanted babies born declined from 76 in 2000 to 14 in 2001, to 6 babies in 2002.   Since no other factors were influential in this change, it appears that the trainings were indeed instrumental in this decline. In addition, residents of these villages adopted four of the babies.

In Simferopol 1000 people from 56 organizations took part in a one-day march for Child Protection. This was a landmark event, as it represented the first march in Ukraine for a social, rather than political, cause. At the conclusion of the project, participants published a manual titled “How to run a project, Family for a Child?” 1000 copies were distributed all over Ukraine and 47 additional  people were trained in how to duplicate the project in other cities.

As a result of this project, legal discrepancies were found in laws about adopting children. The Center initiated an amendment process to facilitate the adoption process.  Other unexpected results included the opening of a school for “Considerate Fathers,”  which trained 40 teens in sex education and responsibility in its first year. And, as a result of publicity, additional humanitarian resources were found, which are helping provide food, medicine, and clothing to the Yolochka orphanage.

The Center’s project was one of twelve similar projects all part of Legacy’s Women’s Leadership initiative in Ukraine.