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Monday, February 25, 2008

Conference Highlights Innovative Service Models for Street and At-Risk Children and Youth and their Families

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – On February 14-15, 2008, HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) and its Russian partner Doctors to Children (DTC) hosted a conference titled Family, Child, and Society: Problems and Solutions, presenting service models and best practices developed by HealthRight and DTC to serve street and at-risk children and youth and HIV-affected families.  Over 430 representatives of child welfare service providers and government administrators from Russia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan gathered for the two-day conference.  
 
Ludmila Kostkina, Vice Governor on Social Affairs of St. Petersburg, opened the conference by praising the strong impact of the partnership between the local government and the NGO community, including HealthRight and DTC, to reduce the number of children entering orphanages and shelters. Children in institutions are deprived of a nurturing environment and often experience neglect which can permanently impair their cognitive and emotional development.
 
Since 1994, HealthRight and DTC have served over 10,000 street and at-risk children and youth and their families, building access to comprehensive medical and social services and strengthening the impact of these services through foster care and family reintegration initiatives, youth HIV outreach programs, peer support networks, education, and vocational trainings. Significant barriers otherwise obstruct these groups from accessing services, impeding healthy development and resulting in problems such as child abandonment, institutionalization, and the spread of HIV. 
 
An innovative partnership. Fifteen years of cooperation between HealthRight and local government and civil society organizations has made significant progress in building the capacity of St. Petersburg health and social services to address the needs of street and at-risk children and youth and their families through trainings, outreach, and advocacy. Community-based program implementation has also ensured that best principles and practices are incorporated into local policy, sustaining the impact of HealthRight’s work in the long term. 
 
”Our collaboration with local government and NGOs in St. Petersburg is vital to the strength and impact of our work,” said HealthRight Executive Director Mila Rosenthal. “At-risk children and youth will no longer go undetected, because local providers now have the tools and the knowledge necessary to reach out to them and to address their specific needs.” 
 
Honoring social responsibility. Awards were announced at the conference to recognize the winners of the Government and Business Social Responsibility competition, co-sponsored by HealthRight, DTC, and the Committee on Labor and Social Protection, identifying the best examples of social responsibility in a government organization and a business in St. Petersburg. Children’s Hospital #3 was honored for its developmental care for young orphans residing at the hospital and IKEA was recognized for its support for social adaptation programs for street youth. 
 
HealthRight projects in St. Petersburg for street and at-risk children and youth and for HIV-affected families are generously supported by USAID, Johnson & Johnson, World Childhood Foundation, Ford Foundation, and MAC AIDS Fund