BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 1 February, 2002, 17:01 GMT
Moscow gets child abuse hotline
Homeless teenagers near Red Square in Moscow
Most runaway children head for Moscow
By the BBC's Nikolai Gorshkov in Moscow

Moscow has introduced a state-run telephone hotline to report child abuse and neglect.

The Russian system of childcare is very complicated and cumbersome, and that is precisely why a lot of children fall through the safety net.

The problem of homeless and runaway children has skyrocketed to the top of the national agenda in Russia since President Putin castigated the government for not doing enough to help disadvantaged children.

Now the authorities are trying to make up for the failure.

Just as there is no single body in Russia responsible for the welfare of children, there are no reliable figures on how many of them are in trouble at home or without a home at all.

Estimates vary wildly from under a million to three million nationwide.

Young homeless boys smoking
Some children are abandoned by parents who can't support them
The vast majority of runaway children descend on Moscow where they congregate around railway stations and street markets.

Police who used to detain street urchins were forbidden to do so three years ago, when Russia adjusted its legislation in line with the European human rights regulations.

Since then the numbers of little vagabonds have swelled dramatically.

Most of them do have homes but prefer to live on the streets rather than be abused or neglected by their parents.


The widespread economic hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union has led to the breakdown of the family, with many parents abandoning their children because they cannot support them.

Social workers believe it is not just an economic issue, they warn of the moral degradation of Russian society.
Young child begging
The government was recently criticised for not doing enough

Now local authorities across Russia are trying to raise public awareness and responsibility for the children by introducing telephone hotlines.

The one that has been launched in Moscow is appealing to people not to ignore what they see on the streets or in their apartment blocks but to report every instance of child abuse and neglect.

The hotline staff - made up of university students studying social work - will then decide what to do next.

This may be a formidable task. The Russian system of childcare is very complicated and cumbersome. And that is precisely why a lot of children do fall through the safety net.

See also:

25 Jan 02 | Europe
Moscow's street kids army
30 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Russia
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories