Prague, April 24 (CTK) – Czech couples are waiting for adoption for years since the number of children who can be legally adopted is decreasing in the country, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.

Some 9,500 children lived in institutional care in the Czech Republic in 2015, according to the statistics of the Prague-based Alternative Family Care Centre. Despite that the number of adopted children has long been lower than the number of couples seeking adoption.

Last year, the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry registered 540 adoption applications, while only 377 children were adopted.

The decreasing figure is caused by a more intensive effort to help biological parents in need look after their children, HN writes.

“There are fewer and fewer children who are ‘legally free’ to adoption. This follows the trend in Western countries. One of the reasons is an improvement in preventive work with threatened biological families,” social worker Pavla Pokorna, from the Alternative Family Care Centre, told HN.

Moreover, the new Civil Code, which strengthens the rights of original parents, is behind the rising waiting time for adoption.

The new law does not guarantee an absolute irreversibility of adoption either. “Each adoption can be cancelled under certain conditions set by law,” Labour and Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Jiri Vanek said.

It seems that the more and more complex process discourages some childless couples from seeking adoption since their number has been constantly dropping in the past few years.

However, this may be also caused by progress in reproductive medicine, that a higher success rate of assisted reproduction, Vanek said.

The adoption waiting time varies region by region. However, the applicants’ requirements still play the key role.

“If they are prepared to accept a child with certain risks in a family and personal anamnesis, a child with a disability, a group of siblings or a child from another ethnicity, the adoption waiting time is usually reduced,” Pokorna said.

Exactly these children often stay in children’s homes for years and many of them until they reach adulthood, HN adds.

Veduna Bubleova, head of the Alternative Family Care Centre, points out that many couples are willing to soften their criteria to cut their waiting for adoption. However, she says they should think it over carefully since “adoption is for whole life.”

It is primarily important that children do not have to wait long in institutions for family care, either by adoptive or foster parents, Pokorna said.

The new law guarantees that the family environment must always be preferred in placing abandoned children, HN writes.

It says the number of children in institutional care has been decreasing only slightly in the Czech Republic that remains the only EU country sending children under three years to infant homes.

Bubleova also criticises the fact that the care of abandoned children is in the power of individual regions and that there is no central register of such children. The childcare system is also split on the national level as it falls under three ministries (education, health and labour and social affairs).

Apart from adoption as the highest form of alternative family care in which adoptive parents receive full parental rights by a court decision, there is also long-term foster care for children who are not legally free to adoption. In such a case, the biological parents have the right to contact with their child.

There are also professional foster parents to secure temporary foster care for up to one year of the children whose parents cannot look after them for some time or who are waiting for adoption or long-term foster care, HN writes.