We burn families on cinder until they lose hope

05 May 2015

'Abcúg' published a detailed interview with Ms. Lena Szilvasi, program development director of SOS Children's Village about the current challenges of Hungarian child protection.
She mentions that while only 1% of children are taken into care in developed countries, the number is higher in Hungary - so there are things to improve - especially when babies are taken into care immediately after birth. She points out that instead of taking the baby away, services should provide assistance to new mums to care for her childre nand provide an appropriate environemnt. She talks about an example in the US where volunteers work with the 20-year-old mum from the ghetto, they make friends with her, spend at least a couple of hours with her weekly, played with the kids, and built connections for her with the world outside the ghetto. In Hungary there is no such intensive care.

She mentions the case of a mum with twins who was abused by her husband but had a third child and could not pay the rent anymore. She spent the next 7 years going from family shelter to extended family, which was a nightmare for the children. While the system provided assistance, it did not provide enough to stabilise the situation of the family. The kids are now in their 20s, they have little education, live in a bad environment and probably become parents early like their mum.

Ms. Szilvasi also points out that there is a well-developed network of services, but these do not talk to each other, they do not cooperate, and families complain that each service tells them a different thing, while their problems are not solved. Instead of bureaucratic measures (and often long debates of which service is responsible), families need hands-on support to stabilise their lives, provide appropriate environment for the kids, etc. When children are taken away, intensive work needs to be done with the family to make them again a welcoming one for the child - but instead families just get tired of endless bureaucratic measures without meaningful help.

She also states that time os of essence for children: for a baby even a couple of hours may make a difference. Young people often complain that they were told they have to stay in the temporary shelter for 30 days, but they have been there for 3-6 months and nothing has happened in their case. In the US a court makes a decision about a baby within 48 hours. In Hungary there is no foucsed risk assessment, instead social services visit every month and see if they made the right decision - and send the parents into different offices. If a child needs to be taken into care, this takes way too much time.
At the same time when talking about assisting children to go back to families - professionals often ignore the needs of the child: for instance in the case of an eleven year-old girl who spent four years in a family-like care home. She wanted to go home to her parents, but during the four years she made friends, she got to love the carers - and there was no opportunity provided for her to visit them. After-care would be needed to ensure reintegration.

This project is funded by: