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Siblings have the right to grow up together

The foster family cared for a group of five siblings. Children have been in the family for three years. They had very strong ties to foster families and a wider family. According to the Social Child Protection Authority (OSPOD), care has worked without any problems. Unfortunately, the family suffered a tragic death of the oldest of the siblings. Subsequently, the siblings were removed and separated on the basis of a provisional family measure. Children have lost contact with the foster parents and with each other.

The ombudsman's inquiry showed that such a serious interference with the family life of children was not necessary.
She found a series of serious mistakes in OSPOD's work.

Family deaths were the result of unfortunate circumstances as a result of two boys' skirmish. No offense was found on the side of the foster parents. Their three-year care has positively evaluated both the OSPOD and the regional authority that mediated foster care. However, OSPOD has submitted a proposal to remove children from the family and at the same time to divorce their siblings. While careful precaution can be taken, children could temporarily be entrusted to members of a wider family of foster carers who offered their help and had very good relationships with children .

By this step, children have lost contact with foster parents who have developed strong links. Their subsistence in the family was also supported by the psychologist who cared for them from the beginning. After two months, foster parents only contacted only older siblings once a month. They did not see the youngsters at all.

The children were divided into two different fosters, and the OSPOD did not provide them with mutual and regular contact. The relationship between siblings is subject to both constitutional and international law protection. Also under the UN Children's Alternative Care Directive, siblings should not be separated from the serious cases.

The OSPOD then even filed an appeal against the judgment of the court of first instance against the verdict regarding the relationship between children and their original foster parents. The Court of Appeal upheld and there was a complete disruption of the children's ties to the original foster family. In this respect, OSPOD did not promote the best interests of children.

"I consider the OSPOD proposal for a preliminary injunction to remove children from the original foster family to be incorrect. Especially because the children were very emotionally tied to foster carers and furthermore because a solid sibling group was split. In addition, there was an unacceptable breakdown of contacts between siblings. Similarly, the children's contact with the original foster family was broken, "
says Anna Šabatová, Ombudsman.

In this case, it was not only the competent OSPOD, but also the municipality and the regional office. But everyone else. After several years of conflict, the siblings could no longer be returned to the original foster family.

Based on the Ombudsman's inquiries, the OSPOD and its senior regional authority have developed systemic measures that would prevent similar excesses in the future:
* OSPOD staff will only remove children from the original family environment in very rare cases, based on a thorough assessment of the situation in the family, where the child's immediate danger is revealed.
* OSPOD staff will always be the first to contact a wider family or close relatives, or other people, of a close family with whom they are in touch and who are familiar with them when it is necessary to place a child out of the family.
* The primary concern of OSPOD social workers is to maintain sibling links.
* Regular and sufficient contact of siblings in case of their distribution OSPOD always "set" in the case conference or "case meeting".
* Any potential contacts of former foster parents with OSPOD children will be set at the latest within 1 month from the issue of the interim measure in the case conference with the participation of all participants.
* In the case of an intention to increase the number of children entrusted to a foster family, OSPOD will inform the regional authority that carried out the original assessment of the foster parents and the consultation of other children will be consulted with him.

Source: tz Ochrá, edited editorially

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