Assistance to Russian Orphans (IREX)

Russian globeChild Welfare Training for Child Welfare Workers in the Russian Far East:
A collaboration with the Assistance to Russian Orphans program through the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX)

Working under contract with IREX (International Research and Exchanges), the School of Social Work did train 28 Russian social workers, psychologists, municipal officials, educators, and other community leaders from four regions in Russia in tools and strategies to improve child welfare practices in their home communities. Funding from IREX is through a grant from USAID. The regions represented at the training were Moscow, Tomsk, Khabarovsk, and Magadan.

The workers examined best practices in child welfare used in the US, with an emphasis on the challenges faced in Alaska. They participated in two three-week intensive child welfare training sessions during June and July of 2006 at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Although the participants worked in widely differing aspects of child welfare their common goal was to improve the quality of care for Russian children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect or are in some way “at risk” of harm due to family and/or community problems.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) was deemed an appropriate partner in the project due to similarities in geographic isolation, harsh climate, and lack of local infrastructure between Alaska and certain areas of Russia. The training was designed to provide a basic understanding of the skills needed by people working in child welfare services, including identifying child abuse and neglect, interviewing, risk assessment, case planning, foster parenting and adoption, separation and loss, understanding fetal alcohol syndrome, and other topics. The curriculum included three kinds of learning experiences: 1) didactic, through morning classroom modules; 2) practicum, through placements in child welfare organizations; and 3) and implementation, through time allocated for planning and curriculum adaptation for use in their own organizations and communities.

Activities

During both sessions participants gathered in the morning for classroom training on topics generated collaboratively by UAA and IREX staff. These topics provided an overview of U.S. and Alaskan child welfare history, philosophy, law, current structure, and the roles of non-governmental organizations in providing services to children and families. After some brief site visits during the first few days of the training, participants were able to experience two five-day practicum sessions within two different agencies. This provided learners with an overview of the child welfare system as a whole as well as a deeper-level understanding of specific organizations. Additional sessions were arranged for participants who requested more information on certain topics, or additional time with specific presenters to gather further information.

Participants from both June and July sessions attended 13 classroom instructions and took advantage of between 15 and 20 agency site visits. These off-campus visits included a weekend field trip to a rural community outside of Anchorage to experience the differences between service-delivery in urban and rural areas. Additionally, three people from the June group were able to travel by airplane to Bethel, a hub community in Southwest Alaska serving several small villages. Once there, these individuals traveled by boat to visit a remote village. All three people serve village populations in their home regions in Russia and were able to observe strategies for providing services to remote populations of indigenous people. At the end of each three-week intensive session, participants grouped in teams according to their home regions in Russia, presented plans for implementing what they learned during the training.

In addition to providing translation and interpretation services, UAA’s American Russian Center provided transportation, orientation, and additional cultural experiences for all participants.

Next Steps

In June and July of 2007, it is anticipated an additional Assistance to Russian Orphans training will occur whereby curriculum and schedule changes will be implemented based upon feedback gathered at the 2006 summer sessions.

To review translated child welfare curricula click on the links below.

Summer 2007

Group 1:

A group of seven representatives from the National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NFPCC) attended a child welfare study tour in Alaska through the auspices of the University of Alaska Anchorage, on June 8-15, 2007. Officials attending the study tour represented the Tomsk, Tambov, and Jewish Autonomous Republic Regions of Russia. They were accompanied by NFPCC consultants and staff from Moscow. There were several major purposes for the tour including the following: 1) to gain an understanding of the U.S. and Alaskan child protection systems; 2) to see and experience organizations providing services to children and families; 3) to visit and experience models of child and family service delivery systems in rural and remote Alaskan communities which may be similar in isolation and social issues to their home regions; 4) to explore university-to-university partnerships in developing and expanding the training of current and future child welfare professionals in Russia; 5) to return to their home communities with ideas for improving training and service delivery systems in their regions.

Next Steps

a.   NFPCC will work with study tour participants to provide consultation on planning and implementation of child protection legal and social frameworks, as well as regional child welfare workforce and academic training

b.  UAA will provide additional information to participants as requested

c.  Eileen Lally will continue to act as Moscow-based consultant and trainer to improve child protection systems, develop curriculum, train professionals, and create long-term training and development systems for Russian social workers, psychologists, and other child welfare workers.

Group 2:

Fourteen educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, educators, university professors, and regional administrators participated in an intensive child welfare study tour July 1-13 in Alaska, organized by the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work. Participants came from the following Russian communities or regions: Barnaul, Altai region; Blagoveschensk, Amur region; Tomsk; Khabarovsk; Magadan; and Moscow. Based on the previous summer study groups’ suggestions, and regional needs assessments by NFPCC (National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), the July group focused on developing skills in leadership and clinical supervision, in addition to practicum experiences in agencies.

Agency visits:

a.  A total of 28 agency visits were scheduled. Participants were divided into five “practicum” groups, based on professional experience and interest, and remained in these groups as they visited appropriate agencies and communities during their two-week stay.

b.  In addition to visiting Anchorage agencies, participants also visited one of three rural Alaskan communities. While in each community outside of Anchorage, they visited local child and family service agencies and participated in local cultural and historical experiences.

Next Steps:

c.  NFPCC will continue to support the regions in their child welfare reform and training efforts.

d.  UAA will serve as a resource to NFPCC and particularly Tomsk State University (TSU) as the two institutions develop their partnership to create a child welfare specialty area in the TSU School of Social Work and train faculty to teach the new curriculum. This includes developing a practicum component for social work education.

e.   Eileen Lally will continue to act as a trainer and consultant to the regions which have participated in the study tours, assisting them with their implementation plans as requested.