Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
31.10.2007 | Inna Filipenko
Children’s rights

Is the law violating children’s rights?


Orphans risk remaining permanently without care as the result of a new Resolution from the Cabinet of Ministers. 

Any child who for whatever reason has ended up in a children’s shelter dreams of finding a real family. At the present time adoption or organization of care could become more difficult. Members of the All-Ukrainian organization “Child Protection Service” are appalled by the unprofessional Cabinet of Ministers Resolution “On organizing implementation of legislation on foster care and care of orphans and children deprived of parental care”, passed on 17 October 2007.  They are convinced that the document contravenes current legislation and violates the rights of children already in foster care (around 64 thousand) and those for whom such care is presently being organized (around 15 thousand). The document has already been sent to district State administrations and settlement and city councils, however staff of the relevant services still don’t know whether to follow the old or new instructions.

Ludmila Volynets from the Child Protection Service explains: “The new Resolution … raises a whole range of difficulties for organizing care. One of the points seems quite absurd.  A child who has turned 7 should provide written agreement to the sale of property, i.e. is deemed old enough to decide whether s/he will in future need the accommodation inherited from parents. It’s also not specified what form the agreement takes, the procedure for providing it and submitting it to the care authorities, etc.”

Ms Volynets says that protection of children’s accommodation rights is the most complex issue in current legislation. Over 100 children ended up in shelters just in the first half of 2007 specifically over violations of their right to accommodation. They are convinced that this figure could rise since the new resolution extends the categories of parents who can lose their right to care for their children.

Previously parental rights could be removed if people were in prison, refused to pay maintenance, committed violence against the child and so forth. Now the list includes parents with psychological disorders or those who are mentally retarded. Yet specialists believe that these are not sufficient grounds and that the main thing for a child is to live in a real family.

Of the 20 thousand children presently living in shelters, over 76% have a family (the parents have contact with them but for various reasons are not caring for them). The formal document drawn up previously confirmed only the lack of a particular place to live. According to the new resolution, it will now state that the children do not have parents and therefore need care.  Specialists believe that this is against the law since the child could permanently lose contact with his or her real family, ending up in the care of strangers (via adoption, being placed in a family-type children’s home or other forms of care).

Another concern is that the new resolution restricts the age of carers. They must be under retirement age, this being 55 for women and 60 for men. The reality is however that it is precisely pensioners who most often undertake care, with more than 50% (around 35 thousand children) at present being looked after by people in this age group.  In order to keep the child they will have to prove that they are related or demonstrate other ties. This is very difficult to do also where the carers are Godparents, aunts, uncles, great uncles or aunts.

The experts are convinced that if the resolution comes into force, there will also be difficult times ahead for family-type children’s homes. Over 12 thousand children find a new family in them each year.  The number of children in such institutions could be unlimited. At present the resolution states that there should be no more than 6 children.

The Child Protection Service is calling on the Cabinet of Ministers to either revoke the Resolution or bring it into line with current legislation. They stress that the new document should not destroy, but support foster and other types of care for orphaned children.

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