SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—The County of Santa Clara, EMQ FamiliesFirst and Russia-based charitable foundation Big Change (Bolshaya Peremena) are launching a mutually beneficial training program to provide Moscow with the tools to transform the Moscow orphanage care system into a foster care system, and to provide EMQ FamiliesFirst and Santa Clara County Social Services Agency with cultural competency training to enhance their work with Russian children and families in the community.
The County of Santa Clara/Moscow Sister County Commission, Social Services Agency and EMQ FamiliesFirst (www.emqff.org) are hosting a 12-member social services delegation from Moscow, Nov. 5-9, as part of the project Building Bridges to Support Children without Parental Care in Family-Based Settings. The delegation will be recognized at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 9:15 a.m. (approximately), at the County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose.
The Building Bridges project is funded by a $57,000 grant from the US-Russia Civil Society Partnership Program (CSPP), implemented by Eurasia Foundation in partnership with New Eurasia Foundation.
“This cross-cultural exchange program is a model of how communities can work together to benefit children,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “By sharing best practices, we are giving Russian youth here and abroad the foundation to grow into healthy, successful adults.”
The Building Bridges Project had its genesis in 2009 when the County of Santa Clara/Moscow Sister County Commission (Moscow Commission) hosted Ms. Irina Ryazanova, Director of Big Change, and Ms. Olga Klimkina, Director of “Helios” Center of Social Help to Children and Family, as part of a Child Protection Open World delegation from Moscow for an exchange of best practices in child welfare and foster care services.
The 2009 Open World delegation from Moscow learned about Santa Clara County’s foster care system, the Independent Living Skills program for youth aging out of the foster care system, employment and housing programs for emancipated youth, educational programs for foster children, and other support services for children who are transitioning to adulthood.
Upon returning to Russia, Ms. Klimkina, then the Head of the Center of Social Assistance to Family and Children (a division of the Department of Social Services of the City of Moscow), established an independent living program for emancipated youth, patterned after the one visited by the delegation in Santa Clara County. That independent living program in Moscow, visited by the Mayor of Moscow in December 2011, has been extremely successful and will serve as a model for an additional 32 such centers.
The ongoing relationship between the Moscow Commission, led by Commissioner Sergey Savastiouk, and Ms. Klimkina and Ms. Ryazanova over the next two years resulted in a request for training to support Moscow’s effort to transform its orphanage care system to a foster care system.
“It is very gratifying to be able to advance the mission of the County of Santa Clara/Moscow Sister County Commission through this project,” said Moscow Commissioner Nancy Madison, who has been instrumental in moving the project forward. “We’ve had a longstanding commitment to building bridges with Moscow, especially in the area of social services.”
In early 2012, the Moscow Commission identified the CSPP grant opportunity for non-governmental organization partners to provide mutually beneficial training projects, and invited EMQ FamiliesFirst and Russian charitable foundation Big Change to apply in cooperation with the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency.
“There was both openness and generosity of spirit from our Moscow partners during the initial visit to conduct the needs assessment,” said Laura Champion, Executive Director for the Bay Area Region EMQ FamiliesFirst. “This week-long training program will give us an opportunity to demonstrate these same qualities as we prepare the group to undertake this momentous change.”
In May 2012, as the first stage of the project, Santa Clara County sent a working group delegation comprised of a representative from EMQ FamiliesFirst, the Social Services Agency and the Moscow Commission, to visit Moscow and meet with Big Change, and Russian child welfare experts, social workers, and orphanage graduates, in preparation for developing a training curriculum for Moscow social services professionals. At the same time, Big Change officials met with the Santa Clara County delegation to prepare their training for enhancing cultural competency in Santa Clara County.
“This is truly a two-way learning opportunity,” said Wendy Kinnear-Rausch, Social Services Program Manager. “We will provide the group with the tools they need to change their approach to care and they will help us to understand cultural nuances, so we can be more effective serving families and youth from Russia.”
The delegates are: Irina Ryazanova, Director, Big Change (Bolshaya Peremena) Charity foundation; Olga Klimkina, Director, Helios Center of Social Help to Children and Family; Natalia Pazdnikova, Director, Center of Social-legal and Psychological Support for Women, Hope; Leonid Mityaev, Director, Orphanage #19, Center of Foster Care Patronage; Marina Pavlova, Director, Center of Social Help to Children and Family, Khoroshevksy; Elena Egorkina, Director, Center of Social Help to Children and Family, Zelenograd; Eduard Kurilov, Director, Center of Social Help to Children and Family, Golianovo; Irina Leskova, Director, Center of Social Help to Children and Family, Troparevo-Nikulino; Nina Larina, Director of Shelter Zyuzino; Goulnara Panina, Deputy Director of Development, Big Change Charity Foundation; Yulia Yudina, ChangeOneLife; and Galina Lebedeva, Trainer and Consultant.
“This project provides an opportunity to meet professionals dealing with similar challenges from two countries, and to discuss practical solutions face-to-face for the benefit of young people in both Russia and the United States,” said Irina Ryazanova, Director of Big Change Charity Foundation in Russia.
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