20. 02. 2016
A mother of two approached the Defender with a request for inquiry into the procedure of the Municipal Authority of Moravské Budějovice and its body for social and legal protection of children (hereinafter abbreviated as “BSLPC”), which was performing curatorship ad litem over the children. The children were placed in a children’s home. The complainant objected to the BSLPC’s order to place the children in institutional care.
The Defender found serious errors in the performance of the curatorship ad litem. The BSLPC did not proceed in accordance with the law, as it agreed with ordering of institutional care (the application was filed by the previous BSLPC in Znojmo), without checking with family members whether they could take the children into their care, and failed to inform the court of the mother’s sisters who could have taken care of the children. The mother provided the BSLPC with contacts details of family members and the contacts were included in the file; nevertheless the social worker was not aware of this information, which negatively impacted not only the court hearing and the imperfectly compiled individual plans for protection of the children, but also the subsequent inquiry on site.
The priority of the child’s natural (even broader) family care over institutional care constitutes a basic principle to which the BSLPC must adhere. This follows from the Civil Code, inter alia, according to which entrusting the child to the care of an individual should take priority over institutional care of the child. In institutional care proceedings, the court shall always consider whether or not entrusting the child to the care of an individual would be more appropriate. It is not acceptable to subject children to the most extreme possible form of substitute care, i.e. institutional care, just because the parent does not co-operate according to the BSLPC’s wishes and does not address his or her adverse situation. Ordering institutional care is not an instrument serving to force parents to become more active and address their situation. The BSLPC must have on its mind the best interest of the child, as required by Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After an inquiry on site, the BSLPC began mapping the children’s family relationships and approached the Office for International Legal Protection of Children in Brno (the mother is a Slovak national), which it provided with the names of the mother’s sisters, asked for assistance and repeatedly discussed the situation of the family in Slovakia. The BSLPC focused on the possibility of entrusting the children to foster care and consulted the case with a methodology specialist at the Regional Authority, to whom it presented the conclusions of the inquiry on site. The BSLPC also called a case conference to discuss foster care to be provided by relatives. It included its new evaluation of the children’s situation in the individual plans for protection of the children, which now includes several alternative solutions. The case is now being addressed by a new social worker as the employment contract with the original social worker was not extended.
Given that after the Defender’s notification, the BSLPC remedied the errors found during the inquiry, the Defender closed the case.