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Slovak Government Challenges U.K. Foster-Care Ruling


By Leos Rousek

Slovak authorities want to hold talks with British social service officials over a recent decision that forced two Slovak children into the U.K. foster-care system. The children, whose parents reside legally in the U.K., were removed from their parents’ custody amid abuse allegations.

The case has attracted widespread media attention in Slovakia, and has become a thorny issue between London and Bratislava. Slovakia, an European Union nation with a population of five million, has a large community of expatriates living in the U.K.

Some Slovak media and child-welfare officials have raised concerns over the British court’s ruling and and over media reports that the children may be put up for adoption in the U.K. or elsewhere. Late Tuesday, about 200 people protested in front of the British Embassy in Bratislava.

“We continue in negotiations with our British counterparts in defending interests of our citizens living abroad,” the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry and the government center for legal protection of minors, CIPC, said in a statement.

The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry didn’t comment on reports about the adoption of the two children, whose identities haven’t been revealed due to privacy rules. U.K. judicial officials don’t comment on foster-care rulings because family court proceedings are secret. Officials at the U.K. Department for Education, which is responsible for social services issues, weren’t immediately respond to emailed questions.

Earlier this year, a family court in London rejected a request by the children’s grandmother, who lives in Slovakia, to become their legal guardian. The court did allow Slovak authorities to file an appeal during an extended hearing, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said. The Slovak government said it supports the grandmother’s request.

“The Foreign Affairs Ministry has helped the [CIPC] office to react positively to requests by the grandmother [and] at several occasions notified our British counterparts through personal meetings and diplomatic cables that it is necessary to observe international treaties on [foster-care] issues,” the ministry said, referring to calls for allowing the two children to stay in the care of their extended family.

Legislation on foster care is different in each part of the U.K., according to Dominic Stevenson, a spokesman for the Fostering Network, the U.K.’s main charity for foster care. “But in England the law says that local authorities must look to family and friends first to provide a home for a child in care,” Mr. Stevenson said.

2012 Sep 19