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Spain to stop placing children aged under 6 in children's homes

Spain to stop placing children aged under 6 in children's homes

Children under six in vulnerable situations will no longer be placed in State-run children’s homes, and will instead be immediately assigned with foster or adoptive parents, according to a new draft law on child protection.
Full story (in Spanish): www.crin.org

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
State-run children’s homes will have no more baby cradles. Children under six in vulnerable situations will instead be immediately assigned with foster or adoptive parents, according to a new draft law on child protection being discussed today by the Ministers Council. This was announced yesterday at the Senate by the Minister for Health, Social Policy and Equality, Leire Pajín.

The new regulation simplifies and facilitates all the bureaucracy that such proceedings involve, which usually takes years. According to EL PAÍS paper, it also brings pre-adoptive fostering to an end. Parents will have to decide from the very beginning whether they want to adopt or to foster a vulnerable child.

There is no data on how many institutionalized children there are in Spain, as each community have their own figures. The 2010 report from the Senate special commission talks about between 35,00 and 40,000 (up to 18 years old), 25 per cent of whom are younger than 6 years old.

The regulation being analyzed today by the Government and that aims at having no more children going through vulnerable situations, draws two lines: one for those children that live with their family, and being in trouble; and another one for the rest.

For the former, the draft law provides for mechanisms where, once the social risk has been identified, social services intervene and implement policies favoring family re-structuring. If this is not enough, the child will receive individual treatment, says the Ministry for Health, Social Policy and Equality. For instance, the child will have the option to attend a day care centre, as well as to receive support in education. If this fails, the child will be immediately assigned with a foster family. Senate experts report that there are currently 10,000 children living in this situation.

The second part of the draft law provides for those children who are already in a vulnerable situation. For them, there will be three options, as nowadays: foster care, adoption or children’s home. Children under three years old, as stated on the draft, will be directly assigned with a foster or adoptive family. Children from three to six years of age will also be “principally” assigned with families (i.e. as a priority) instead of institutions, though not “directly”. The placement of these children in a family is usually more difficult than in the case of younger children, as explained by sources close to the Minister. Therefore, children’s homes will be the last resource.

The idea is to put an end to the traumatic situation of children who wait endlessly in institutions for the Government to find a solution to their case. As for institutionalised children in Western Europe, Spain is at the top place.

Another innovative aspect of the draft law – which amends the Civil Code, the Child Protection Law and the Law of Civil Judging – is that it makes a difference between fostering and adoption proceedings. It thus stops pre-adoptive fostering, where a family used to foster a child and later decide whether they wanted to adopt him/her.

The regulation also provides for the possibility of adopting children over 18 years old if these were already living with a family under the foster care modality, or if these children were leading a “stable” life with a family before being eighteen. That is to say, once he/she is eighteen, the child should keep the foster family’s protection with whom he/she has been living, and should benefit from all that is provided for on the Civil Code.

The law also regulates institutions for children with misbehavior, which are now governed by autonomous laws, though not specific, according to Social Welfare sources. This leaves the children living in these centres in a more vulnerable situation, despite the claims of child protection agencies and the Children’s Advocate.

A recent report by the Advocate describes situations of abuse in children’s homes in Madrid, like children confined, or tied with ropes or chains. To stop these wild practices, the draft law establishes that a child can be placed in an institution for children with misbehavior only if indicated by an expert’s diagnosis. Moreover, it also states when the child should be medicated. In order for a child to be placed in a closed regime centre (different from those centres for children in conflict with the law) a judicial authorization will be needed.

Translated for IFCO by María Soledad Franco - Traductora Pública en Ingles
Tel 00 54 11 4308 5383 / Cel. 00 54 9 11 32509504
maria_soledad_franco@yahoo.com.ar
Skype: mariasoledadfranco / MSN: mariasoledadfranco@hotmail.com