Czech NGOs criticised the obsolete child care system caused by the lack of coordination between the ministries and delays with the systemic reforms. This has been discussed during the roundtable “Transformation of care system for children at risk from children’s and experts’ perspective” that took place on the 15 May 2017 in Prague, the Czech Republic. The event was organized by a Eurochild member Vteřina poté (Second After) and Association Dítě a Rodina (Child and Family Association) bringing together key national and international stakeholders, civil society organisations and representatives from the three ministries responsible for institutional care for children in the Czech Republic.
“It’s of great disappointment that deinstitutionalisation (DI) strategy in the Czech Republic was adopted in 2012 but has never been fully implemented. Previous action plan for DI ended in 2015; since then, there have been four attempts to adopt an updated action plan but none of them were successful because the Ministries were not able to reach a coordinated agreement,” said Andrea Safarik Fridmanska from Vteřina poté.
In the Czech Republic today, there are approximately 9,000 children living in institutional care. Out of these, 1,600 children live in baby and infant homes and 1,800 children are accommodated in correctional facilities with prison-like features. “Last year, 95% of the children who lived in correctional facilities entered them under the Care order and only 5% of them were placed under the Criminal order. In other words, the absolute majority of these children do not belong to the correctional facilities. These type of settings are legally organised and run as isolation rooms/cells,” said Michal Dord from Vteřina poté.
There are three ministries in charge of care for children at risk: Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.
“A child’s placement in the institution costs the State about thirty times more than a cost of a support service organised for his/her biological family. While the annual cost per child in an infant’s home for children under the age of 3 is about 778 thousand Czech crowns (approximately 29 300 EUR), community-based social work with family comes to 26 thousand crowns (approximately 985 EUR). A long-term foster care placement costs three times less than a child’s placement in the institutional setting,” concluded Mr Jan Klusáček from Lumos.
State care institutions for children in Czech Republic have been criticised for fragmented and disjointed efforts from the state authorities and the high number of children living in institutional care. According to the Child and Family Association, the Czech Republic is one of the very the last countries in Europe where children under the age of three still enter institutional care. Child aid organisations called on the government to promote the unification of care and the enactment of regulations to prohibit placement of children under three years of age in institutional care.
Representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, responsible for the infant homes and correctional facilities for children, defended institutional care settings run under their competences. They stated that institutions for babies and infants and the diagnostic centres are important and set a good practice of care for children deprived of parental care. Ministry of Labour, leading transformation and unification of the child care system in Czech Republic, urged other responsible ministries for the immediate adoption of the action plan on deinstitutionalisation.
“We are tasked with submitting the legislative proposal to the government by the end of June 2017, which we will adhere to. The Ministry of Labour supports the unification of care system under one authority, but other ministries do not. I feel that a conservative attitude prevails there,” said Labour Minister Michaela Marksova. According to Ms Marksova, the system of child care and child protection in Czech Republic was not able to transform and the interests of the employees prevailed over best interests of children.
The 2016-2020 action plan includes measures aimed at consolidating child care and child protection authorities under one ministry, the Ministry of Labour. It foresees the increased minimum age at which children enter institutional care (from 0 to 7) and specifies measures to limit capacity of institutions and promote development of the family- and community-based support services, particularly for children under the age of 3, instead.
It is expected that the action plan will have another attempt to be adopted again shortly. Ministry of Labour has already introduced measures to gradually redirect finances from funding residential institutions towards family support services and to make use of staff working in the institutions. However, this means that the personnel of the institutions would have to move to lower-paid jobs within social services − a fact that can also explain public resistance to changes.
At the roundtable “Transformation of care system for children at risk from children’s and experts’ perspective” held on 15 May 2017 in Prague, Katerina Nanou, Policy and Advocacy Officer of Eurochild and the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children Campaign Coordinator shared key arguments why it is necessary to end institutional care in Europe by providing examples from three countries Belgium, Hungary and Bulgaria. “Along with our colleagues from Czech Republic, we are calling for the immediate adoption of the action plan on deinstitutionalisation. Measures to ensure that the national and EU budgets follow the DI strategy and no investments are made in institutional care must be put in place. Placement of children under the age of 3 in institutional care should be avoided by any means. The use of correctional facilities for children is unacceptable. Instead, prevention services in the community and quality family-based and community-based alternatives that follow each child’s individual needs should be supported and further developed. The well-being of each child should guide our decisions,” Ms Nanou concluded.
FACTS AND FIGURES OF CHILD CARE SYSTEM IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC:
- Infant homes for children between the age of 0-3 (6) are managed by the Ministry of Health, some of which house over 100 children per one facility, with one nurse working in shifts and looking after 5 children on the average and even more for infants between 0-3 years of age.
- Early intervention social services, social welfare, homes for children with health disabilities and facilities for children that require immediate help are managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Children’s homes under this Ministry have the average capacity for 20 children; children (usually between 3-18 years of age) live in groups of 4.
- Children homes, correctional facilities for children with risk behaviour and diagnostic centres are managed by the Ministry of Education. These facilities house up to 48 children; children between 3-18 years of age live in groups of 6-8 and are looked after by one caretaker who works in 8-hour shifts.
- Children’s home for children under three years of age 777 840 crowns (equals approximately to 29 300 EUR)
- Children’s home 423 720 crowns (approx. 16 000 EUR)
- Foster care for a temporary period of CZK 423,600 (approx. 16 000 EUR)
- Immediate help facilities, such as kangaroo 273,600 crowns (approx. 10 300 EUR)
- Long-term foster care 243,240 crowns (approx. 9 175 EUR)
- Community based social work with the family 26,100 crowns (approx. 985 EUR)