Add a comment
In the contest of the public enterprises deinstitutionalization that has been recently widely discussed in the mass media, there is one topic that is being constantly avoided. This topic deals with children left in maternity hospitals. The situation with such children leaves much to be desired and seems to be the weakest point of a boarding school system reformation. Nowadays it is newborn infants who were ‘accidently’ left in maternity hospitals who experience the greatest effect of the newly coined Ukrainian legislative system, which – in order to avoid law abuse – deprives them from the right to be adopted before they are at least one year old. So, as it turns out, from the first moments of life the heartbeat of these children is ‘overruled’ by firm normative and legal ‘special devices’. And at the same approximately 1572 potential adoptive families are riding from one orphanage to another searching for their future sons and daughters who are not yet three years old. Why does it happen so? And can it be possible that in an orphanage giving shelter for 40 – 60 children there is no one who could be adopted? Answers for these questions were tried to be found during a special training session “Boarding school reorganization: can it be introduced in Ukraine?” organized for the mass media representatives by “Ukraine’s Development” fund. Though the main topic of discussion dealt with boarding school deinstitutionalization we began with the most burning question.
One of the main speakers of the meeting – head of the adoption and children rights protection State Department Lyudmila Volynets – reminds the members of the training session about a case of child trafficking which took place in L’vov in 1994 – 1996. She says that some of the deputies still can’t forget that horror though it happened thirteen years ago, and this is shown in their adoption of a new legislative norm, according to which a mother who leaves her child in a maternity hospital has the right to give a written permission for his or her adoption in two months term. They consider such measures quite reasonable as after the childbirth mothers’ actions may be not adequate and they may change their decisions afterwards. But they seem not to take into consideration the fact that most of the mothers who leave their children in hospitals are not registered in antenatal clinics and are called ‘transit’ women: a few hours before giving birth to a child she takes a train, delivers a child on a transit train station and a few minutes later runs away leaving her child in any maternity hospital. But it is predetermined by the law that such mothers have the right to return to this maternity hospital in two months term or apply to the child care institution of the town where they gave birth to a child and give a written attested notarially permission for their child’s adoption. We shouldn’t forget that such attestation costs at least 70 hryvnas. In other words we expect that a woman who has left her child in a maternity house will come back in two months time, undergo the whole bureaucratic procedure and pay 70 hryvnas? And we should by all possible means avoid pressure on this woman or we’ll be prosecuted according to article ¹ 165 of a criminal code – agreement for the child’s adoption should be given by her free will.
We have already several times introduced a draft bill, allowing such mothers to write an adoption agreement at once, on condition that it will come into power in two months term, unless the mother decides to take her child back. But each time we face a refusal as deputies consider that we are looking for ways of organizing child trafficking.
“I want to write an agreement for my child’s adoption!”
So what’s the future destiny of these children? In most cases they are sent to local orphanages, directors of which are meant to be their main guardians and have responsibility not only to cure, feed, bathe and dress these children but also to protect them from the potential adopting families during the first six months of their life. According to the existing legal norms directors of the orphanages don’t have the right to show children, who don’t have their mothers’ permission to be adopted, and they have also no right to define the status of such children during the first six months. Even if in two months time the mother of a left child hasn’t written an agreement for his adoption, the director of an orphanage still doesn’t have right to permit his adoption during the following six months. The only thing he can do is to search the child’s mother. Only after six months of child’s living in a definite orphanage, the director of the latter has the right to refer a special claim to the court. In this case the child’s future becomes the lawyer’s business.
If the director cooperates with a good diligent lawyer, the latter would come to this director after the six months time and tell him they he has a child that could be adopted. But this would happen only if the director cooperates with a good diligent lawyer. And if the lawyer is not diligent he would come to the director only in nine months time or even a year. So 994 children, who become orphans this year would have the special statues only in the next year. And the 1572 adoptive families would find the desired child only if at least one mother would say: “I want to write an agreement for my baby’s adoption”.
What a marvelous situation, isn’t it? Can you imagine that a mother who has left her child would come back and write an agreement? It’s hard to imagine but sometimes such mothers do really come back. In two months time sharp. What forces them to do this? Is it a sense of duty or, may be, maternal care? No, unfortunately not! It happens only because some of the doctors take the passports of these women, as they know that if they don’t do this such mothers would never return to their children. They do understand that it’s not legal but they have no other choice. They should do this to protect the future of these children. But it’s not the worst thing they have to do. Sometimes they even have to falsify doctor’s certificates, as it’s not allowed to keep healthy children in a hospital for two months. So they write in a medical certificate that a child, who is practically healthy, has two or even more serious diseases. In most cases potential parents of such a child read his or her falsified medical certificate and decide not to adopt this child just because they realize that they don’t have enough money to cure all these diseases. And no one will explain to them that all these frightening diseases were written by the doctors with the only aim – to help this child receive an allowance to be adopted as soon as possible.
Shadow adoption variants or “Child abandonment enforcement”
There is also a special so-called “shadow” variant of child adoption in our country, or to be more precise its “shadow” beginning, because or government takes no pains in an attempt to find mothers who have left their children in a maternity hospital. In most cases such mothers are being searched by families who want to adopt this or that child. When they receive information that there is a rejected child in this or that hospital they go to this hospital and try to collect all possible facts about the child’s mother. They learn her name, place of living and various assumptions concerning her present location. When such “investigators” learn something really important about this or that mother they immediately start off with the only aim – to bring her back and make her write an agreement for her child’s adoption…
In a “shadow” variant ¹ 2 the role of such “investigators” plays the working staff of this or that orphanage. When they receive a child left in a maternity hospital, they first of all contact this maternity hospital, then they contact the local government and together with a qualified lawyer they go searching they do their best to find the child’s mother. Sometimes they even have to force her to write an agreement for her child’s adoption. So they have to break the law in order to save the life and future of this or that child.
The working staff of some orphanages say that sometimes they even have to misuse money donated by sponsors and give it to a lawyer, who would go to a notary officer and certify the mother’s agreement for her child adoption. Now it’s even difficult to say how many babies were adopted thanks to doctors, lawyers and other officials who were not afraid of breaking the law.
What can we do to prevent this? Why don’t we register all the mothers who visit maternity hospitals? Doesn’t it seem strange that we have to show passport even when closing our credit card, but we don’t have to show anything when giving birth to a new citizen of our country.
Another member of this training session – the head of the Kharkov regional orphanage Roman Marabyan – says that everyone who thinks that women go to maternity hospitals with passport, identification code and residence permit is deeply mistaken. Such woman can say that her name is, for instance, Ivanova Maria Petrovna and that she lives in Kiev, and then it’s almost impossible to find her traces. Our government doesn’t do anything to find such mothers and even the working staff of maternity hospitals and orphanages doesn’t expect that such mothers would realize their mistake and come back for their children. A kind of a deeply negative attitude is being formed to such mothers in the hearts of people who work at maternity hospitals and orphanages. Such attitude is absolutely wrong and doesn’t do any good, because such mothers need sympathy and understanding, and it’s really important for them to know that there are people who are not indifferent to their problems. Nowadays there are special psychologists who work in maternity hospitals and try to help mothers who have an intention to leave their children. Roman Marabyan says that they even used to give money to these mothers so that they could pay for the way back to the orphanage. Some of these mothers really came back though the majority used this money to buy alcohol. But still the percentage of children taken back into their natural families from his orphanage is extremely high. And according to Kevin Brown, a professor from the Nottingham University, it the percentage of children taken back into their natural families that shows the efficiency of work of any orphanage or boarding school.
At the end of April the capital of our country saw a visit of one of the best European specialists who work with children from orphanages and maternity hospitals, Kevin Brown. It wasn’t an ordinary working visit. Kevin Brown learned about boarding school system reform being introduced in Ukraine and decided to share the results of his long-term investigations in this sphere and present his new book – “Deinstitutionalization and transformation of child care services”. This book contains instructions and working strategies based on practical work performed by Professor Kevin Brown together with his colleagues from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Great Britain, France and Bulgaria.
So what is their advice concerning the problem of the left children? What do they do to solve it? In the abovementioned book, written by Professor Brown, there are several recommendations to the working staff of maternity hospitals and orphanages. First of all, they should make sure that all women who want to give birth to a child have passports and identification cards. Then they should take photo of a mother and her newly born child. In this case if a mother leaves the maternity hospital without her child and doesn’t offer any explanations, her photos and documents are being sent to police or social services in two days term. If a mother gives an explanation but still doesn’t come back for her child in five days, her photos and documents are also being sent to police. In case when there is no such practice in this or that country, Professor Brown suggests giving medical certificate to every child, which would contain his name, time and date of birth. Such medical certificate should be accepted as an acting document which allows the child to be adopted. All this should be performed together with the work of psychologists in maternity hospitals, social workers and general state control.
But yet thousands of children are being kept in maternity hospitals and orphanages while hundreds of families want to adopt a baby. You may ask why? The answer is quite simple: there are people sitting in their cabinets who keep saying: “you won’t find variants for children trafficking!”
Translated to English by Anna Skalevskaya for www.deti.zp.ua