Ask Lithuanian authorities to stop arbitrary separation of children from their parents

Petition to: Lithuanian authorities


Ask Lithuanian authorities to stop arbitrary separation of children from their parents

1,438 people have signed. Help us reach 2,000 signatures.

Ask Lithuanian authorities to stop arbitrary separation of children from their parents

On July 1, 2018 a new version of the Law on the Fundamentals of the Protection of the Rights of the Child together with its substatutory legal acts entered into force. Unfortunately, the new child rights protection model in Lithuania is harmful and unjust not only for the parents but for the children themselves – it confers huge power on state authorities to intervene in the private life of families and to arbitrarily take children away from their families. Even a potential “risk” or a minor offence can be enough to separate a child from his/her family if the living environment is formally recognized as “unsafe”.

The new Law on the Fundamentals of the Protection of the Rights of the Child was adopted in light of a tragedy that occurred in 2017. A five-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mother and her cohabitee. This story sparked outrage and provoked very restrictive legislative initiatives. Dovilė Šakalienė – a member of the Parliament and initiator of the new regulation – seemed determined to make the child rights protection as rigorous as possible. As a result, the Lithuanian system of child rights protection is becoming similar to the infamous Norwegian Child Rights protection agency Barnevernet, in which model the child is viewed as an individual whose family bonds are of little importance and may be cut off whenever the state considers that his/her family is facing any difficulties.

Unfortunately, after Lithuania adopted the new law, the number of children temporarily or permanently separated from their parents skyrocketed. In the first 9 days about 90 children were separated from their parents or legal guardians! Nevertheless, many terrified families kept silent about the authorities’ abuse of power. Later, it was revealed why: some families were forced to sign so-called confidentiality agreements to prevent them from making their stories public. Not until mid-October did one family destroy the “bubble of silence”, making their story public. Their children had been taken because the mother was seen in the park slapping the buttocks of her son who had been running towards a busy road. The officials publicly denounced that the mother was drunk even though an alcohol test showed that she was totally sober. She was arrested for 48 hours, and both of her children were separated for one month not only from her but also from their father, who, according to the authorities, had refused to cooperate by protecting his scared son from a very aggressive child rights protection officer with a criminal background. After the intervention of the mass media and some members of Parliament – and especially due to societal pressure – both children were returned to their parents, but the harm done to this family will be long-lasting.

One of the main problems is that the new provisions that entered into force with the law (and were signed by Linas Kukuraitis, minister of social work and labor) are too rigorous. They present a long list of requirements that are checked in a child’s home if it is suspected that the child is being mistreated by his/her parents. The “checklist” aims to estimate the level of “threat” posed to the child. The main danger, however, is that no real threat is even required, and the authorities can base their decision to take a child on an indirect possible threat that is sometimes even unreal and depends on subjective evaluation. Moreover, the criteria are so strict as to subject many families to being deemed “dangerous” for their children; thus, many parents are afraid to be denounced falsely by their neighbors, medical doctors, kindergarten, or school teachers. They live in fear and anxiety of making any mistake and are discouraged from paternity.

It is true that not all families are perfect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, indicates that the family is a natural and fundamental group of society, and it has the right to be protected by society and the state. Thus, the first and most important task of the state must be supporting the family, not restricting it and meting out punishment for parents. Even a short separation of a child from the family is a psychological trauma that can have long-term consequences for his/her psyche. The arbitrary and unmeasured taking of children from the family does not serve the interests of children. It is a form of institutional violence against the child and the family.

By signing this petition, you can show your support for the efforts to reverse the reform of child rights protection in Lithuania and to respect the institution of the family. Your signature will be sent to the representatives of the most important Lithuanian authorities that could take actions to reverse the reform.

Your signature is extremely important as it shows the Lithuanian authorities that every child has a right to live with his/her biological family and every family is worth protecting, cherishing, and helping.

This petition has been created by a citizen or association not affiliated with CitizenGO. CitizenGO is not responsible for its contents.
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Petition to: Lithuanian authorities

 For the kind attention of:

the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Ms Dalia Grybauskaite

the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr Saulius Skvernelis

the President of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr Viktoras Pranckietis

the Minister of Social Security and Labor, Mr Linas Kukuraitis

the Director of the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service, Mrs Alina Jakavoniene

the Ombudsperson for Children's Rights of the Republic of Lithuania, Mrs Edita Ziobiene

I am signing this petition to express my concern regarding the Lithuanian legislation on the protection of children’s rights. As the official statistics and testimonies of many families show, the present model of the protection of children is harmful and disproportionate. It is similar to the polemic Norwegian child rights agency Barnevernet in that a child can be separated from his/her parents too easily and for minor mistakes.

I believe that the separation of families permitted by the Lithuanian legislation is irrational, contravenes the respect due the private life of families, and is not in the best interests of the child. Every unreasonable and unobtrusive separation of a child from his/her living environment and family is primarily a state-legitimized punishment for the child himself/herself.

Emphasizing that, both in false legislation and in practice, Child Rights institution employees, along with police officers, are given overly broad discretion to interfere in private family life and to separate children (even for a short time) from their parents, I call on the authorities:

- To initiate a review of the reform of child rights protection and the legislation on the basis of which it is implemented, in particular to the extent that it provides for the taking of children from an "unsafe living environment" and by law enforcement. Also, to correct the defective definitions of violence against children through freely interpreted children's rights protection lawyers;

-  To establish by law a pattern of compensation for disproportionate interference into family and private life by officials and personal liability for officials for recognized disproportionate behavior;

-  To ensure the effective provisions of support for families in all municipalities in Lithuania;

- To establish a public and (or) parliamentary supervisory body that checks the validity and proportionality of the actions of employees of child rights institutions and monitors the constitutional rights of parents, children, and families.

Please reject the mentality of disproportionate intervention and control over Lithuanian families and children and provide effective help for families instead of arbitrarily punishing them.

[Your Name]

Ask Lithuanian authorities to stop arbitrary separation of children from their parents

Sign this petition now!

1,438 people have signed. Help us reach 2,000 signatures.