Transforming Child Protection Systems in Russia and the U.S.: The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange

Russia’s child protection system is engaged in a national initiative to reduce the number of children in orphanages and state care, build capacity of foster parents, and recruit mentors and adoptive parents to support young people as they learn to live on their own. The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange is supporting this transformation by exchanging knowledge and skills among child protection experts and practitioners from both countries.

AIR's Kim Helfgott and other U.S. and Russian child welfare experts and practitioners have gathered to exchange information about U.S. and Russian child welfare system policies and practices, and participate in training on recruiting foster families and adoptive parents. A Russian delegation met with U.S. Children’s Bureau representatives at AIR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and other experts gathered at national, state, and local child welfare organizations in Columbus, OH; New York, NY; and Los Angeles, CA. In turn, a U.S. delegation visited sites in Moscow, Perm, and St. Petersburg.

After these meetings, AIR convened a virtual conference to identify lessons learned, share policy and practice changes arising from the initiative, and identify recommendations for next steps. Project participants are developing a cross-cultural analysis of child protection and family placement, including clarification of child welfare definitions and language to support future child protection exchanges between U.S. and Russia.

“Both Russians and Americans are deeply committed to improving the lives of young people in orphanages and foster care,” said Helfgott. “This exchange of expertise is showing how it can be done.”

The US-Russian Social Expertise Exchange is funded by the Eurasia Foundation. U.S. partners include AIR, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Kidsave International, Hunter College, and the University of Southern Maine. Russian partners include Moscow State Regional University, the Charitable Foundation “Warm House,” Perm Educational Research Center/Regional Foundation, and Kidsave Russia.