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Neglecting a child's basic needs

There's no guide that guarantees a child will become a happy healthy adult. But some needs, if met, give a child the best chance to become one. The diagram below, developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, suggests if the needs at the bottom are not met, the ones above will not be fulfilled.

At the base is food, water, clothes, shelter; ultimately keeping a child alive! Without them, they will not have security and health in the next tier above.

Many orphans have never moved past the very bottom tier. Some won't even have had their basic needs met consistently during their early years. This has a long lasting impact.

Many remain extremely small, their physical and mental growth is significantly stunted. A prime example of this is Sergey (we'll share his story in a few weeks).

Their capacity to learn is affected. When accompanying 20 year old Dasha to the shops to buy food with her it was sad to realise she could not grasp simple sums between the numbers 1 to 10… it was difficult to imagine how she could ever achieve any level of independence.

Many have lifelong mental health issues. Orphan girl Vika went without her basic needs being met by her parents. She saw her mother killed by her father and was then abused herself. As an orphanage leaver, she now suffers physical symptoms and mental health problems from the trauma she experienced. Like Vika, all children who have been placed in orphanages will be carrying the effects of whatever caused them to be put there; be it physical neglect, parent absence, parent death, abuse and more. All three of these orphans are being cared for by a Love Russia mentor. Vika has been receiving specialised counselling since her mentor (Nadya) cared enough to identify the problem. Even if orphans have their basic needs met, it’s rare they will move on to the next level of needs. Safety needs outlined in the diagram (employment, security, resources) are typically met by having a good level of education and time spent learning from role-models. Education in orphanages is mostly poor as orphans are not considered worth giving quality education to. This is why life skills teaching is key to the way Love Russia helps orphans. A considerable amount of time needs to be invested in these young people who have a lot of catching up to do learning things most would pick up from a parent.

Understandably, even without their basic and safety needs met, orphans still strive for love and belonging. It is not possible for caregivers, working shifts and sharing themselves between many children, to meet this need for love. Emotional neglect can cause children to develop self-stimulating behaviours which are often self-injurious e.g. repeated picking of the skin, hyperactive behaviour or rocking; and may continue into adulthood. Others who appear to have no obvious effects seek emotional stimulation through sleeping around and using drugs and alcohol. So, without employment and security, orphans often embark on having a family anyway. Sadly, this puts their children at risk of being taken back into the orphanage system. Dasha, mentioned earlier, now has a baby. Her extreme poverty and her learning difficulties meant the odds of her being able to provide all her baby’s needs were against her. However, with the support of her mentors and a Love Russia support group specifically for orphan mothers, Dasha has people in her life to spot when she is struggling and turn to when she needs them. At the crisis centre, mums and their children receive their most basic needs of food and shelter. Counselling and parenting classes equip mums and means children at the centre not only have their basic needs met but can move to the next tier. They find security and love.

For orphans, the chances of them reaching a good level of self-esteem and self-actualisation are very low, especially if left to figure life out with no guidance. Once young people leave the orphanage system, it’s a battle for them to meet their own basic needs. This is why our mentors are so essential in what they do for the many orphans they come into contact with. When Mentors Step In…

  • They make sure their orphans are eating and washing…

  • They try to educate so they have the best chance of finding jobs…

  • AND, they show their young people they are secure and loved.

It’s only then that such vulnerable and damaged young lives can begin to heal and progress to the next level of building their self-esteem and start working towards self-actualization.

Thank you for any support you can give and your continued prayers.

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