MPs want to raise minimum age for guest family stay abroad

A Latvian parliament committee on March 13 lowered the minimum age from which children in institutional care can visit foreign host families, reported Latvian Radio.

As reported, there has been disagreement over host family programs in which children are sent to stay in the US, and about 15% of them are adopted by the same families after their stay, according to Latvian Radio estimates.

The Welfare Ministry thinks the programs give handicaps to foreign adopters, and LSM reported that these agencies misrepresent the situation in Latvia's care institutions.

The current proposal, expected to be put to vote in the Saeima in mid-April, would allow sending children abroad if they are at least twelve, and groups of siblings could also be sent if one of them is at least twelve years old.

Currently, children under the age of seven are often sent abroad in these programs, according to Welfare Ministry. 

The Association of Children's Courts, and representatives of the adoption agencies arranging these trips have objected to the proposals, saying they're against children's interests. Agency reps Daina Roze, and Kristīne Lemantoviča have given MPs children's letters that ask not to support the amendments.

Roze and Lemantoviča want to set the age limit to nine years old, as it's the age when children most often go on these programs. 

The ministry also wants to introduce a norm that explicitly states foreigners taking care of children abroad would not be prioritized when decisions concerning adoption are made. 

Inese Laizāne (National Alliance), the head of the responsible committee, told Latvian Radio that while the committee supports the age limit, it's still to be decided whether the priority proposal should be made law. 

"Sadly, manipulative arguments are being used by both sides, and we have to sift out the emotions and get to what's best for the child. I think the Welfare Ministry proposal is very considered, and that the age limit of twelve is justified," she said.

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