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Share of Romani children in Czech infants’ homes increases

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Prague, Nov 2 (CTK) – The share of Romany boys and girls in Czech homes for infants under three has increased in the past years, from about 20 percent in 2010 to over 30 percent in late 2014, according to a report on the situation of the country´s Romany minority in 2014.

Although the number of infants in institutional care has been steadily decreasing, it is still difficult to find foster families that would accept Romany children, the report, worked out for the government, says.

A total of 1,213 infants were in institutional care in late 2014, including 389 Romanies.

“The adoption or foster care is often the only chance [for a child] to leave the institutional care. Romany children have a markedly lower chance of adoption or foster care due to the prejudices espoused by the applicants for child adoption or people in their environment, and also by some members of the staff who mediate adoptions,” the report says.

According to the relevant authorities, children´s ethnicity is the main reason why no foster family has been found for them in the Czech Republic, the report says.

Prague has been long criticised by international institutions and domestic experts for the high number of children in institutional care. The Czech Republic is the last country in Europe where babies under three can be placed in children´s homes.

In Slovakia, only children over six can be placed there, and in Germany and Austria from the age of three. Studies have shown that institutional care has unfavourable impacts on the children.

At the end of 2010, there were 1,953 babies in the Czech infants´ homes, including 403 Romany babies, which is one fifth of the total number.

At the end of 2014, the total number was 1,213 and the number of Romanies 389, which is 32 percent.

The share of Romany babies is “14 times higher than what would correspond to the share of Romanies among the Czech population,” the authors of the report wrote.

They said the data on the number of Romanies in the homes for children from three to 18 have not been monitored, but experts estimate the share of Romanies in these homes at 30 to 60 percent.

For many children, the only chance to leave institutional care is their adoption by a family abroad.

“Our most typical client is a three- or four-year Romany boy. It is a child who waited three to four years in [Czech institutional care] for whether a suitable [Czech] foster family care can be found for him. No foster or adoptive parents were found. This fact alone is alarming,” Zdenek Kapitan, head of the Czech Office for International and Legal Protection of Children, has told CTK.

He said his office has excellent experience with foreign applicants for child adoption. They really want a child and are well prepared for him or her.

“For example, we never met with racial prejudices on their part. Our country, on the contrary, still fails to drop the prejudices,” Kapitan said.

In 2014, 54 Czech children found a new family abroad. Out of them, 44 were aged under five. Their ethnic origin data were not monitored, but the above report says Romanies prevailed among the children adopted abroad.

According to the authors of the report, the high share of Czech Romany kids who are put up for adoption abroad poses a problem, because this is a burden for the children transferred to a foreign environment and faced with a different culture and language.

In some cases, the childrens´ ties with their siblings back in the Czech Republic are cut, the report says.

“It is necessary to reassess this practice and consider whether the methods applied to the adoption mediation procedure are discriminatory,” the report says.

Instructive courses for the staff at the authorities in charge of adoption mediation are also necessary. Putting up a child for adoption abroad should be the extreme solution, the report says.

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