Are too many Czech kids unnecessarily ending up in institutions?
On Saturday, International Children's Day was celebrated throughout the Czech Republic. Towns and communities organised various events for children and hundreds of competitions and shows were prepared for kids and their parents in museums, zoos or castles. Some programmes were also arranged especially for disadvantaged children and children living in orphanages. Unfortunately, Czech children's homes are becoming more and more crowded as Pavla Horakova reports.
In Prague's historic Old Town Square, a group of 10-year old girls are tap-dancing on a small stage decorated in bright colours. Their performance is part of a 5-hour programme prepared by children for their peers living in orphanages and children's homes. Sadly, the number of children growing up in orphanages is rising. According to the daily Mlada fronta Dnes about ten times more Czech children are being raised in institutional care than is usual in other developed countries. To find out more I called Katerina Malinova from the Centre for Foster Care and Adoption.
"I'm afraid I can't give you the exact numbers. But what we know is that in developed countries other possibilities are more developed. There are more varieties of substitute family care, professional foster care and foster care as a short-term solution which is not applied in the Czech Republic unfortunately. Foster families are seen as a long-term solution only, so if there are children who are not suitable for long-term placement, they end up in children's hostels."
According to Mlada fronta Dnes, around 1,200 children were taken from their families and placed in children's homes on courts orders last year alone. The surprising thing is that only a fraction of those children ended up in orphanages because of parental abuse or neglect. A growing number of children are being taken away from their families because their parents are simply poor or too young. Refusing to have your baby vaccinated can also lead to the child being placed in care. A law on the protection of children which came into effect two years ago gave more powers to social workers. They are often overwhelmed by paperwork and have little time to adequately assess family lives or try and find help for families in difficulties. Katerina Malinova confirms that often the easiest solution for the social worker is to send the children away to an orphanage.
"The problems of the family are solved in the way that the children are taked away from the family and the social worker is not working actually with the family and helping the family to rebuild the structure and to be able to take care of the children. So the solution for them is to take the children into institutional care which is not the best solution, in my opinion."