The Protector of Citizens identified numerous shortcomings in the work of multiple competent bodies that for seven years following the Government of Serbia’s decision adoption have been failing to form appropriate centers for foster care and adoption, which would make possible appropriate support to children and foster families, and ordered urgent measures for rectifying the shortcomings.
The omissions in the work have been committed by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, the Ministry of Finance and local self-government units; whereas the Recommendations for improving the work were issued to the Ministries where the omissions were identified, and to the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-government, Republic and Provincial Institute for Social Protection and the Provincial Secretariat for Social Policy, Demography and Gender Equality.
In an own-initiative investigation, the Protector of Citizens determined that out of eight centers that were planned, seven centers for foster care and adoption were established on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and only one of them operates within the field of foster care at the entire territory, for which it was established. Other centers took over the competence only in the territory which, according to the number of employees and based on the standard of work with foster families, they could take over.
It was also determined that the Center Subotica was founded in 2018, but that it has not yet started working, while the Center Bela Crkva, envisaged by the Decree of the Government of the Republic of Serbia on the Network of Social Welfare Institutions, has not been established. The operations within the field of foster care in territories that have not been taken over by the centers for foster care and adoption are still carried out by the already overburdened social welfare centers.
None of the established centers that perform activities has an adequate number of employees, the Center Subotica not included, as it was established and has not started working and has no employees at all. Established centers provide support for less than half of the total number of children in foster care and for less than half of the total number of foster families in the country. More precisely, more than half of the children in family accommodation and more than half of the foster families are not provided with specialized support.
The Protector of Citizens also determined that even after 12 years from the adoption of the Rulebook on Foster Care, as well as 9 years since the adoption of the new Law on Social Welfare, foster care is not even close to the extent envisaged and provided for by the regulations.
In the Recommendation, the Protector of Citizens demanded all competent authorities to rectify the identified shortcomings without delay, to provide specialized training for foster parents and continuous and timely assistance and support. The Protector of Citizens believes that the solution to the problem must be sought in the amendments to the regulations governing this area, in order to monitor the needs that arise in practice.