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Number of Czech babies raised in institutions falls slowly

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Prague, Nov 20 (CTK) – The number of infants younger than three years who end in Czech children’s homes has been decreasing steadily but slowly, according to the Institute for Health Information and Statistics (UZIS) data showing that 1559 infants were sent to be raised in institutions in 2016.

The SOS Children’s Villages NGO on Monday called on the next Czech government and regional authorities to push through a ban on sending babies to children’s homes and close the so-called infants’ homes.

Babies who cannot be raised in their own families should go to adoptive or foster parents because surveys have proved that institutional care has a negative impact on children’s development, the NGO’s representatives said Monday, which is celebrated as Universal Children’s Day to mark the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

“If a baby is born to a loving family, several adults try to win his love and attention – the parents, grandparents and other relatives. On the contrary, several babies compete for the attention of one adult in an institution. This adult cannot meet the individual needs of the child,” said Michaela Polakova, from SOS Children’s Villages.

She said the time schedule for food, changing nappies and play is firmly set and nurses take turns.

Along with other organisations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the Czech Republic for raising too many children in institutions. It also challenged the fact that a single ministry does not deal with the whole agenda. Until now, care for children has been divided between the labour, education and health ministries.

Czech experts on child care said the outgoing centre-left government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) failed to use the unique opportunity to reform the system in a situation where the above three ministers were all headed by politicians from the same party, the CSSD.

The Child and Family NGO said the Czech Republic is the last country in Europe in which children under the age of three can end up in children’s homes.

Slovakia issued a ban preventing this in 2006. At present, it is forbidden to send children under six to children’s homes in Slovakia. In Poland it is not even allowed to send children under ten to institutional care.

According to a child care strategy that the Czech government approved in 2012, children under three should not have been sent to children’s homes as of 2014 and children under seven as of 2016. Sobotka’s government discussed the ban several times. According to the last proposal, the ban on sending children under three to institutions would take effect in 2023 and it would be extended to children under seven in 2025. But the government did not approve the proposal.

According to UZIS, 27 infants’ homes for children under three and one children’s centre in the country received 1559 new infants last year.

In 2015, 1666 infants ended up in 30 infants’ homes and one centre operating in the country. In September 2016, the Zlin Region was the first Czech region to abolish infants’ houses in its territory.

In 2014, 1703 infants ended up in children’s homes. In 2013 it was 1740 and in 2012 it was 1963 infants.

In 2016, 78 of 100,000 children under the age of three were raised in institutions in the Czech Republic. In 2011, it was 108 per 100,000 children under three.

Miloslav Macela, who specialises in family affairs, said Czech children’s homes and infants’ homes took care of about one fourth of the children in need and received nearly half of the 11-billion-crown budget for this field, while foster families raised about two thirds of the children in need and they received about one-third of the budget.

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