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Slovakia Defends its Children
September 15, 2012 permalink
Britain's child protectors have become so rapacious that the government of Slovakia is contemplating legal action within the European Union to save its children in Britain.
Foreign government may take UK to European court over its 'illegal’ child-snatching
The Slovakian government has such 'serious concern' over the workings of Britain’s 'family protection' system that it plans to challenge the legality of the policy in Strasbourg
In an unprecedented move, a foreign government is threatening to take Britain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to challenge the unusual readiness of our social workers and courts to remove children from their parents for “no sound reason”. So disturbed is the government of Slovakia by the number of Slovak parents who have lost their children in Britain in recent years that its justice ministry has posted a declaration highly critical of Britain on its website and says that, if a decision of the Appeal Court this Tuesday goes against one Slovak family, it will back an appeal to the Strasbourg court that Britain has acted illegally.
I have often reported here on the zeal with which British social workers are not only prepared to travel abroad to seize children born there to British parents, but also to remove children from foreign families in Britain, even when they may only be visiting here on holiday. But this is the first time a foreign government has sought formally to challenge a practice that is almost unique in Europe (although worldwide headlines were made recently by a similar case where two children were seized from an Indian family resident in Norway, but were eventually returned to India after the intervention of the Indian government).
The case that goes to the Appeal Court this week concerns two young boys, Slovakian subjects, whose parents have lived and worked in Britain since their country joined the EU in 2004. Two years ago, when the parents took one of their sons to hospital to enquire about a minor infection, social workers were alerted that it might be the result of a “non-accidental injury”. The boys were put into the temporary care of the family’s American pastor, who describes how social workers then arrived with three police cars to remove the children, screaming as they were torn from their horrified mother and grandmother, to an official foster home.
Thus began a protracted legal battle, involving many court hearings, four different social workers, seven “expert” doctors and psychologists, 16 interpreters, 13 different “contact supervisors” and dozens of lawyers. Initially the local authority seemed happy to contemplate that the children might be returned to live with their grandmother in Slovakia, but the social workers of a council that advertises its enthusiasm for adoption on its website then suggested to the foster carers that they might like to adopt the boys.
By now the Slovak authorities were involved and could see no reason why the children should not come back to live with their grandmother. But earlier this year a judge found in favour of the council, ruling, to the astonishment of the Slovak authorities, that the boys should be adopted. The family enlisted the help of John Hemming MP, who has had sympathetic support from the Slovak ambassador to London. The case has attracted widespread media interest in Slovakia, and the Slovak justice ministry has posted on its website a “Declaration on adoption of Slovak children in the UK”, stating that it has such “serious concern” over the workings of Britain’s “family protection” system, and the readiness of the British authorities to remove children from their “biological parents” for “no sound reason”, that its representative on the ECHR plans to challenge the legality of Britain’s policy in Strasbourg.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: The Wall Street Journal covers the case.
Slovak Government Challenges U.K. Foster-Care Ruling
Slovak authorities want to hold talks with British social service officials over a recent decision that forced two Slovak children into the U.K. foster-care system. The children, whose parents reside legally in the U.K., were removed from their parents’ custody amid abuse allegations.
The case has attracted widespread media attention in Slovakia, and has become a thorny issue between London and Bratislava. Slovakia, an European Union nation with a population of five million, has a large community of expatriates living in the U.K.
Some Slovak media and child-welfare officials have raised concerns over the British court’s ruling and and over media reports that the children may be put up for adoption in the U.K. or elsewhere. Late Tuesday, about 200 people protested in front of the British Embassy in Bratislava.
“We continue in negotiations with our British counterparts in defending interests of our citizens living abroad,” the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry and the government center for legal protection of minors, CIPC, said in a statement.
The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry didn’t comment on reports about the adoption of the two children, whose identities haven’t been revealed due to privacy rules. U.K. judicial officials don’t comment on foster-care rulings because family court proceedings are secret. Officials at the U.K. Department for Education, which is responsible for social services issues, weren’t immediately respond to emailed questions.
Earlier this year, a family court in London rejected a request by the children’s grandmother, who lives in Slovakia, to become their legal guardian. The court did allow Slovak authorities to file an appeal during an extended hearing, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said. The Slovak government said it supports the grandmother’s request.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry has helped the [CIPC] office to react positively to requests by the grandmother [and] at several occasions notified our British counterparts through personal meetings and diplomatic cables that it is necessary to observe international treaties on [foster-care] issues,” the ministry said, referring to calls for allowing the two children to stay in the care of their extended family.
Legislation on foster care is different in each part of the U.K., according to Dominic Stevenson, a spokesman for the Fostering Network, the U.K.’s main charity for foster care. “But in England the law says that local authorities must look to family and friends first to provide a home for a child in care,” Mr. Stevenson said.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Addendum: Photo from a protest in Bratislava. The mother is Ivana Boórová, the boys are Martinko and Samko.
Slovaks protest at Britain's 'illegal child snatching’
Demonstrators in Bratislava are echoing Slovak government criticism of Britain's 'child protection' system
More than 400 Slovak protesters jammed the street outside the British Embassy in Bratislava last Tuesday, brandishing placards with such slogans as “Britain thief of children” and “Stop legal kidnapping”. They were there to lend their voices to the Slovak government’s own concerns about British social workers and courts, which show a unique readiness to take children into care for what the website of the Slovak justice ministry calls “no sound reason”.
Slovakia has threatened to take the UK to the European Court of Human Rights over cases involving Slovak children, more than 30 of whom, according to one estimate, Britain has taken into care.
The demonstration was timed to coincide with a hearing in the London Court of Appeal of the plea of a grandmother, supported by the Slovak authorities, to have her two young grandsons returned to her care in Slovakia. Forcibly seized from their parents by social workers in 2010, the boys were sent by a judge for adoption earlier this year. Thanks in part to the presence in court last week of a senior official of the Slovak government and the intervention in the case of John Hemming MP, the grandmother was given leave by Lord Justice McFarlane to appeal.
On Friday, Slovak officials were also present in a Kent court which ordered five children from another family to be returned to Slovakia. The children were seized by social workers after the three youngest had been left in the care of their 17- and 15-year-old siblings while their parents were on night shift.
Mr Hemming is in touch with other foreign governments similarly concerned by the way their subjects are being taken into state care in Britain for reasons they believe to be in breach of human rights laws.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
The government of Slovakia has conducted a critical audit of its adoption system, suggesting that too many children were adopted outside the country. All of the reader comments are favorable to social services and critical of opportunism within the Slovak government.
Government Audit Raises Suspicions of Wrongful Adoptions
The recently publicised cases of Slovak families losing their children to the United Kingdom social services has led the government Human rights committee to audit the Centre for International Legal Protection of Children (CILPC) and hopefully unravel the full scale of the problem, with some curious findings.
Figures cited by SME daily talk about over 300 Slovak children who have been put up for adoption abroad in the past ten years, but not just in the UK. These cases of cross-border adoptions had to be given the green light by CILPC. The government human rights committee has therefore been auditing the work of CILPC, which has had to face criticism over its inactivity or slow reaction in the UK cases, as it could have requested the return of the children to Slovakia.
In all, it seems that about 100 children were sent to their new fates without the cases firstly being examined by a committee, while there were 357 cases of cross-border adoption (106 being questioned). Older cases from before 2002 remain a mystery as the records have been lost or deliberately destroyed.
Regarding the UK cases, SME cites some 50 cases of Slovak children being taken by Social Services, where CILPC did not request that they be sent back to Slovakia. The centre is the only body that can approve cross-border adoptions and enter processes where Slovak children are involved, but now it appears that officers at the centre were using a loophole to finalise cases without a commission examining them.
Another point is that Slovak children should only be put up for adoption abroad if there are no suitable families found in Slovakia, a principle that Lucia Nicholsonova from the SaS party claims has not been respected. It seems the large majority of the children were shipped off to Italy, with no or little follow-up by the CILPC as to where the children actually ended up. Nicholsonova is therefore planning to lodge criminal charges on suspicion of trading in children.
The new head of the CILPC, Andrea Cisarova (since this summer), is also keenly awaiting the full results of the audit, which will hopefully explain what happened to the records from before 2002 and why have so many Slovak children end up in Italy. Given all the recent revelations and accusations, many feel something dubious is taking place, while others have faith in the system and reject outright that such atrocities could ever take place here in our civilised Europe. The child’s best interests are maybe not always the primary motivating factor, however, and so families continue to be split apart, with or without legitimacy.
Source: The Daily.sk
Addendum: Christopher Booker reports that the court of appeal has ruled in favor of returning the Boórová children to their grandmother in Slovakia, but the intrepid child protectors are delaying through an appeal to the supreme court.
Slovaks win out over the child-snatchers
All last week I was waiting on tenterhooks for the verdict of the Court of Appeal on as murky a case of child-snatching as I have ever reported. The case had only got up to the Court of Appeal because of the intervention of the Slovakian government, which had expressed its concern at how many Slovak children have been seized by British social workers “for no sound reason”.
This harrowing story began two years ago when two young boys were forcibly removed from their Slovak parents, who had been working for some years in England. The reasons for their removal could quickly have been shown to be wholly groundless, had a crucial piece of photographic evidence been allowed to be questioned in court. Even so, at one point in a story that involved dozens of lawyers, social workers, “experts” and official carers, it seemed that the children were about to be handed back to the care of their grandmother in Slovakia. But the council was determined to hang on to them and persuaded another judge to rule that they should be put out for adoption.
The case has caused a huge stir in Slovakia, with television coverage and demonstrations in the streets. Nine days ago, thanks to the involvement of the Slovak government and John Hemming MP, the appeal court ruled that the boys should be handed to their grandmother. Lord Justice Thorpe told the family “you have won”, and asked for everyone to return last Tuesday to report on the arrangements made for the handover. But still the local authority refused to give up, hiring a QC to work over the weekend on a case for the boys to be kept in England. Again the hearing had to be adjourned.
Finally, on Friday, two judges confirmed that the children should be returned. But a third said that the council should be allowed to spend thousands of pounds more on appealing to the Supreme Court. If and when those children at last arrive in Slovakia, I look forward to reporting this story in full, because it reveals so much of how, behind its self-protective wall of secrecy, our “child protection” system too often actually works.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
A Slovak source names the grandmother as Eleonóra Studencová.
A December story says that courts have allowed the Slovakian grandmother to appeal the adoption. Contemporaneous news in the Slovak language, where real names are used, corroborate that this is about the Boórová family and say the children should be going home to Slovakia in January.
Slovakian grandmother wins right to challenge High Court adoption ruling keeping grandsons in the UK
- She wants the boys, who were born in England to Slovakian parents, to leave the UK
- Social workers intervened after one suffered an injury thought to have been caused by his father
A Slovakian woman who wants her two grandsons to leave the UK and live with her in Eastern Europe has won the latest round of a legal fight.
The Court of Appeal gave the woman - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - the go-ahead to challenge a ruling saying the boys should be adopted and stay in the UK.
Appeal judge Lord Justice McFarlane said Slovakian government officials had 'expressed concern' about the approach a lower UK court had taken to the case.
Lord Justice McFarlane was told that the boys - aged four and three - were born in England to Slovakian parents.
Social workers had intervened after one suffered a 'non-accidental' injury thought to have been caused by his father.
Both parents had accepted that the children could not live with them, said Lord Justice McFarlane.
Earlier this year a family court judge decided that the boys should be placed for adoption in England, not returned to Slovakia to live with their mother’s mother.
Lord Justice McFarlane gave the grandmother permission to challenge the family court judge’s ruling, during an appeal court hearing in London.
He said there was an 'arguable case' that the family court judge had 'fallen into error'.
The grandmother is expected to outline her arguments in detail at a full appeal hearing in London later this year.
Lord Justice McFarlane said the Slovakian government had raised concerns.
'They (the Slovakian government) expressed concern about the approach of the UK court in this case,' he said.
'They questioned whether the decision affords proper respect to the grandmother.'
A few weeks ago an MP who campaigns for family law reform raised concerns about the 'forcible adoption' of Slovakian children living in England and Wales.
Liberal Democrat John Hemming, who represents Birmingham Yardley, said Slovakian government officials were troubled by decisions made by judges hearing family court cases involving Slovak parents.
Mr Hemming raised the issue in a parliamentary motion and said Slovakian officials had worries that there were cases where children had been adopted 'without sound reasons'.
Mr Hemming said the Slovakian representative at the European Court of Human Rights had 'expressed a willingness to intervene in support of complaints made by Slovakian citizens about wrongful adoptions'.
He thought that officials had concerns about 'possibly 30 children' and said he would raise the issue with UK Government ministers.
Source: Daily Mail