Future of almost 500 children unclear after charity crisis

Photo: Alena Podlucká

The future of some 470 children who were placed in children’s homes operated by the Fund for Children in Need is uncertain. To this day, the charity owes the state more than 22 million crowns in overdue social and health insurance payments for its employees, and currently faces a threat of property seizure.

Photo: Alena Podlucká
Established in 1990, the Fund for Children in Need is a charity focusing on children who suffered abuse, were abandoned by their families or are otherwise threatened. It provides them with immediate alternative care when they cannot remain with their biological parents. The fund currently employs around 400 people and operates 22 children’s homes, so-called Klokáneks, around the country.

In an interview for Czech television on Tuesday, the fund’s director Marie Vodičková said the government has refused to help them deal with their financial problems. She also blamed the Amendment to the Act on Social and Legal Protection of Children, which came into force in January 2013:

“Two similar organisations have been closed down since the amendment came into force, because the state doesn’t allow us to operate on state subsidies. The ministry wants us to look after children taken away by the state, but we are supposed to fund that care from private donations and other sources. We tried to find a solution by arranging a payment calendar, but that idea was rejected.”

Marie Vodičková,  photo: Matěj Pálka
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs claims that the Fund for Children in Need has had problems with financial management for years, despite receiving more subsidies than most of the other organisations providing immediate help to threatened children.

Petr Habáň is a spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs:

“The fund has in the past been granted exceptional financial help amounting to 30 million crowns. In 2012 it requested an additional 60 million crown subsidy but that was not approved. There are dozens of similar organisations caring for kids in need that didn’t receive a single crown in subsidies, yet most of them are able to deal with the situation.”

Marie Vodičková argues that most of the other organisations caring for children in need are operated by regional authorities and therefore they are at least partially funded from their budget.

Mrs Vodičková has already addressed all of the fund’s 330,000 private donors, asking them for financial support, but she is still hoping that some agreement with the ministry can be reached.

Photo: archive of the Fund for Children in Need
If all fails and the fund is forced to close down its homes, Petr Habáň says the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry can guarantee the kids will not end up “on the street”:

“The ministry will cooperate with regional authorities and other organisations but also with foster parents. We are going to deal with the situation in a way that will minimize the stress for the children involved. But I have to say that right now we are talking about a worst-case scenario. We will see how the situation develops and we are ready to assist the regional authorities in solving the situation.”