The Czech Republic is the last country in EU in which it is possible to send children under three years of age into orphanages. Last year 1,606 boys and girls under three ended up in the institutions, bringing strong criticism from international organizations.
"The Czech Republic has been criticized for over 20 years. For other countries our system is incredible. We are the last country in Europe that allows the placement of children under three years in institutions. The whole of Europe is ahead of us," said Věduna Bubleová, chairwoman of the Association of Child and Family.
Studies have shown that institutional stay has adverse effects on children, including long-term psychological effects. According to Bubleova, the Czech Republic owes a change to all children who have to grow up in institutions.
Michal Dorda of the Seconds After organization said, "In Poland, the age limit for an institutional placement is 10 years, in Germany and Austria three years, and six in Slovakia. We are a bit off here."
According to the minister for social affairs, Michaela Marksova, the number of children in institutions is gradually decreasing. "We try to keep the children in the original family, but not at any cost," Marksova said. "If there is violence, it is not possible then. The small children in a crisis situation should be taken into care of professional foster parents."
Most shouldn't be there
According to Dana Lipova, director of the Sirius Foundation, the annual report on the provision of health services for last year showed that facilities for children received 1,606 children under three years. A total of 1,146 children were accepted on the request of their parents.
"There is not enough effort invested into these families. Two-thirds of the children should not be in institutions," said Lipova.
According to the parliamentary work group for foster care, the emphasis on professional foster care has destabilized the system for helping children in need, as all types of care should have their place in it.
"Do not destroy what's working and can be improved. Prioritizing professional foster care must stop for a temporary period. There is an increase of this type of foster parents only and a lack of long-term foster parents and stagnating or decreasing number of adoptions," said Jitka Chalankova, a Czech MEP and member of the Social Committee.
Setting the rules
According to Marksova, it is not about closing the institutions, but setting the rules. "Infant institutions and children's homes are and will be needed. We do not have other facilities or enough foster parents."
She said that some regions are already beginning to transform children's institutions into other type of facilities, because the number of children is on a decrease there. They put them into halfway homes, for example, and provide other social services.
International institutions also criticized the Czech Republic's fragmentation of care for vulnerable children. It falls under three ministries - Labour and Social Affairs, Education and Health. According to Marksova, it is going to be unified under her ministry.