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Project information

Prevent second-generation orphanhood in Russia

Around 1000 children live in orphanages in St Petersburg. 95% of them are not orphans. The orphanage does not teach them how to be a good parent, so their children in turn will be at risk of being put in an orphanage. We can break this cycle by supporting them to become good parents.

This is an ongoing project

Charity information: St Gregory's Foundation

St Gregory's Foundation logo
  • Need


    Russian orphanages fail to prepare children for adult life. 4 out of 10 orphanage leavers end up homeless and 1 in 10 commit suicide within a year of leaving.
    Orphanages are closed worlds with children living and going to school in the same building. They are not encouraged to bond emotionally with adults. All choices, practical tasks and responsibilities are taken from them.
    This makes parenthood emotionally and practically difficult. Many of their children will end up in orphanages.


    The Sunflower parents club uses counselling, play sessions and creative activities to improve the bond that parents who grew up in orphanages have with their children. They are given help in coming to terms with the trauma of their own abandonment, are introduced to activities to help their child's development, and are taught practical parenting skills. Those that take part are highly unlikely to abandon their child, or to have him or her taken into care.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Help the families to integrate socially beyond their circle of orphanage friends.


    » Prepare the children for kindergarten or creche.
    » Group counselling sessions give the parents the chance to ask for advice about their interpersonal problems in their personal lives and at work.
    » A series of outings and activities introduce the group to new situations, including showing their work in art exhibitions.
    » Long-standing club members volunteer to help the newer families. Volunteer families from mainstream society also help to widen their social circle.

    What success will look like

    Success will be when parents and children's social skills are improved, children start attending kindergarten, and families are less afraid to mix with others.

    Aim 2

    To enable the parents to take responsibility for their own life and for their child.


    » Create an individual family development plan together with the parents.
    » Training in parenting skills.
    » Individual counselling sessions.

    What success will look like

    Success will be that parents want to raise their children, and do not hand them over to friends or to a children's home.

    Aim 3

    To help the young parents understand the trauma of the loss of their own birth family.


    » Individual counselling.
    » Creating a "Life Book" with the young parents to help them remember the story of their family and to reflect on it.

    What success will look like

    Success will be when parents have some understanding of how this trauma affects their own experience as parents, without letting their past control their future.

    Aim 4

    To establish and develop the child-parent relationship.


    » The family group play sessions help improve communication and emotional bonding through play.
    » Play therapy sessions are held with individual families.

    What success will look like

    Success will be that the parent-child bond improves and the parents can regulate their children's behaviour without always using punishment.

    Aim 5

    To teach parents the skills needed so their children develop physically, emotionally, intellectually


    » Home visits to advise on nutrition, sleep routines, hygiene, child first aid etc.
    » Individual and group sessions encouraging reading stories to children, teaching games that are appropriate to different ages.
    » Group outings which encourage families to spend their leisure time in a more varied and active way.

    What success will look like

    Success will be when parents are able to take care of physical needs of their child, show emotional warmth and make play and other activities part of their family life.

  • Impact


    Families stay together and become more trusting and better integrated in society. Their relationships improve, as do their children's social skills, emotional well-being and in the long term school performance.

    Parents are able to ask for help and to help each other. Some will formally volunteer with teenagers in orphanages and new families in the group. Parents will be more successful at finding and keeping work. Children are taken to kindergarten (an essential preparation for school).


    The parents attending the club have experienced instability, and threats to their psychological well-being all their life. Stable accommodation for the project is vital so that it has continuity allowing a relationship of trust to build with the project team. There is also no single system of support for orphanage leavers, and the project wasn't supported officially by the local authorities. Both of these issues are now resolved with the support of the district Committee for Youth Policy.


    Our Russian colleagues will write a report about the progress of the project after six months and after one year. We will translate this and send out by e-mail (and post if required). We will also show our donors photos of activities where possible.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £18,862

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £4,939 Individual family consultation counselling, play therapy and home visits over nine months
      £9,513 Weekly family days for 9 month weekly play sessions, art sessions, parenting skills and group counselling
      £2,560 Outings Monthly outings and summer camp.
      £1,850 Admin Accountant, rent of legal address, website, currency transfer
  • Background


    The project operates in a northern district of St Petersburg. A meeting space in a youth centre is provided free of charge by the local authorities.


    Around 40 families with 45 children will benefit from the project. All of the parents grew up in children's homes. Although options such as fostering are increasing, institutionalisation of children is still wide-spread. There are 1,000 children in orphanages in St Petersburg alone, despite the known harm it causes: 10% of orphanage-leavers commit suicide within a year of leaving. St Petersburg is undoubtedly wealthy, but this is an isolated social group with no official support of this type

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    This is, to our knowledge,the only organisation in St Petersburg that offers support aimed at increasing responsibility and independence, rather than giving material hand-outs. It has a proven track-record of success: families that have gone through the process now help as volunteers with the newer cohort. The leaders also teach professionals how work effectively with institutionalised young people (this has separate funding). We have local funding for rent, transport and tickets for outings.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Elena Sukhorukova

    Elena is project director, managing staff, pioneering new ways of working with orphanage-leavers and working with clients.

    Natasha Andreeva

    Natasha is project co-ordinator. She works closely with Elena, both in planning activities and in working directly with clients.

The parents' club celebrates New Year

The parents' club celebrates New Year