New initiative aims to promote the country’s foster and adoptive families’ system

June 1 marks International Children’s Day in the Czech Republic, where more than 11,000 children who cannot be raised by their biological parents live in institutionalized care – an unusually high number compared with other European countries. Widespread institutionalized care is a legacy of communism, when children’s homes were the only option and foster families did not exist. A new initiative, odsouzeni.cz, is aiming to change that. I spoke to Roman Pavlík, the coordinator of the initiative which aims to promote alternative forms of child care, such as foster and adoptive families, in the Czech Republic. I started by asking him to describe the typical situation of a child who cannot be raised by his or her parents here in the Czech Republic.

“Children without parents are entirely dependent on the state, which can either send them into institutional care, or into alternative family care, to adoptive or foster parents. Unfortunately, the Czech system still prefers children’s homes.”

How many children are there in institutionalized care in the Czech Republic and why do you consider this problematic?

“In Europe, about 140,000 children are in institutional care, and of this number, eight percent are in the Czech Republic, about 11,000 children still waiting behind the walls of our children’s homes.”

And why would it be better to raise those children not in institutions, but in foster families?

Photo: European Commission
“First of all, this is a question of the health of the child. There are researchers who say that it is absolutely vital for especially small children to live in a family atmosphere and to have at least one person fully devoted to the child.”

And what is the goal of the initiative odsouzeni.cz and who is behind it?

“The initiative on one hand wants to open the eyes of the Czech people, and get them to focus on this issue. On the other hand, we are actually lobbying some key laws focused on child care, so it would very helpful for us to find some supporters among your listeners, to support us on facebook, or online at odsouzeni.cz, because it is a completely non-profit intitative. Right now, some 15 NGOs are behind and a lot of famous personalities, such as Ivan Trojan, the actor, so we have a lot of supporters among celebrities in the Czech Republic and it is crucial for us to find more people among the citizens who will support our initiative and who are willing to help change the system.”

I believe that you also say that developing a proper foster care system here in the Czech Republic could actually save the state some money. Can you explain that?

“Absolutely. Institutionalized care is seven times more expensive than the alternative care in families. It costs about 40,000 crowns per month to take care of a child in an institution, compared to 7000 to 8000 per month to take care of a child in a family. So it’s a better way to save money in the state system and to focus on family care and to support adoptive and foster parents here in the Czech Republic.”

For more information, visit www.odsouzeni.cz