The way society deals with its children and particularly children in need is one of the best indicators of the level of civilisation of that society. Much has been written about political events and economic issues in Russia, but little has been written of the care afforded to children in need. This study - based on research collected first-hand from policy-makers, academics and practitioners - helps fill that gap. It analyzes Russian child care and protection policies and practices in the last years of socialism and follows through their development to the present day. The study examines the effects of political and economic transformations on child welfare and discusses the emergence of new social problems such as child abuse. The capacity of current ambitious governmental reforms to protect children is assessed in the light of wider economic and political objectives. The emergence of social work is also charted and difficulties facing its development are identified. The study ends with a discussion of some of the obstacles which must be overcome if Russian society is to be able to protect its most vulnerable members in the year 2000.