Disabled Children Face Abuse in Russian Orphanages

In Russia, nearly 30% of all children with developmental and physical disabilities are given over to the state for care. They are put into orphanages, separated from their parents and according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, face abuse and an appalling lack of care.

The majority of the children in these centers have disabilities such as blindness, deafness and Down Syndrome. However, it also became apparent that children with psychological issues, such as depression, have been put in these homes.

One of the most appalling aspects of the report involved the use of “lying-down rooms.” Here, children with developmental disabilities are put in cribs, regardless of their age, and essentially spend the entire day there.

Specialists note that when it comes to children with disabilities, a child’s right to movement is paramount in helping them relieve stress and gain critical muscle mass for development. When movement is severely restricted, chronic stress and acts that center around self-harm start to bubble to the surface. When HRW members surveyed the children, especially those in the “lying-down rooms,” there was often physical evidence of stress, manifested in rocking back and forth, or self injury.

Other forms of physical abuse, including inhumane restraints and beatings were also documented. One woman, who had spent years in these orphanages, talked about the constant abuse. “The staff used to beat me and drag me by my hair,” she said. “They gave me pills to calm me down.”

Russian orphanages are still using outdated terms such as ‘uneducable’ to describe a number of children with developmental issues. This term has been dropped by most international psychiatric boards, as it has been proven false. Children are also left alone for long periods of time, with almost no oversight, and those who are ‘dangerous’ to themselves or others are constrained using painful and outdated devices.

Food shortages have also proven to be a problem. One nurse told HRW that they “grind up whatever they have” and put it into tubes for feeding. Caretakers who are passionate about their jobs and the children they watch have voiced frustration with the lack of resources and oversight by management.

The report notes that the Russian government has taken action to address these concerns in recent years. Programs and acts to educate parents and help provide home care have been passed and partnerships with NGOs to work in developmental care also exist. Yet the ability to implement these programs on a timely basis has proven problematic.

Russia has one of the largest populations of institutionalized children in the region. Studies, cited by the HRW report, show that for those who are brought in as infants, there can be serious consequences. Developmental progress from age 0-3 are vital to establishing cognitive function and social interactions. If these orphanages are unable to provide these children with the love and support necessary, the results can be devastating. Children who have lacked access to such early-developmental care have been shown to suffer from severe psychological issues throughout life, with a higher chance of criminality.

The report gives a number of recommendations to the Russian government to tackle this issue. These include ending the use of physical restraints, unnecessary sedation and isolation as discipline. They also recommend creating a zero-tolerance policy towards orphanages that humiliate, beat and psychologically harm the children in their care with proper monitoring of these facilities.

Long term expectations include education and support for families that do not have the means to support children with disabilities. The best place, UNICEF argues, for a child with impediments is with loving family members that have been educated in developmental care. Civil society members in Moscow and other large cities are active in trying to teach these policies. However, they will need far more funding and support from the government if they are going to succeed.



Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago


M Quann
M Q3 years ago

Very sad, poor children :( :(

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

Not that I'm an advocate for Russia, but I fear that kids all over the world are mistreated in orphanages, 'especially' the disabled.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thank you.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G3 years ago

this is disturbing !!

Graham Parker
Graham P3 years ago

Are we suprised? no,this is just the tip of the iceberg.Ask any person who has attempted to adopt a child from Russia and they will confirm what they have seen.Do what they did 20 years ago in Romania,send an undercover team to film and document the horror to be shown Worlldwide and then see the reaction of Putin then.

Molly R.
Molly R3 years ago


Lori A.
Lori A3 years ago

Did anyone see that documentary film about several 7-year-old Russian orphans? They were supposed to be interviewed again when they turned 14. I wonder what became of those children.

Arild Warud

WTF !!!

Debbi W.
Debbi -3 years ago

It is a horrendous situation, but I doubt Putin loses any sleep over those poor children. You can't mandate humanity and it is obvious the government isn't help those who are trying to help the children.