Ombudsman: orphans’ fate ‘tragic, hopeless’

Despite being enshrined in the Satversme (Constitution) and national legislation, the rights of children who have lost their families and come into state custody are not being observed or ensured at state-run boarding schools. Indeed, said the Ombudsman’s Office in a report issued Thursday, the prospects of children orphaned or otherwise come under the care of the state is “tragic and hopeless.”

In contrast to previous audits of separate facilities one at a time, the institutional care system for children living outside of families was in this case considered as a whole. Specialists visited 21 out of 30 such care facilities throughout the country. Ombudsman Juris Jansons told LTV morning news program Rīta panorama Thursday that his Office has concluded that the constitutionally-guaranteed protections that these children without biological families are entitled to by law are in fact not being observed at all.

“Precisely the opposite – the fates of these kids are being in fact crushed,” he said. “The prospects for these children are being formed in a rather tragic and hopeless way.”

If a child comes into the care of a boarding facility or local government social care home, then the key issue becomes the ensurance of proper education. “How interested are the respective institution leaders to provide appropriate education to these children at the closest possible site? Then the simplest road to take is to send the child away to boarding school,” the Ombudsman asked rhetorically.

The boarding schools are commonly remote from the child’s accustomed home and social care facility. Moreover the children have nowhere else to go until vacation time.

In cases where a child develops behavioral disturbances and aggression, they are sent to a psychiatric clinic. Upon surveying the specialists at these clinics, the Ombudsman’s Office staff found the respondents to believe the children needed not psychiatric therapy or medicines, but rather simple qualitative pedagogy, perhaps psychological counseling and “simply loving and positive attitudes toward these children.”

Ombudsman Jansons pointed to the responsibility of politicians and the government.

“Our constitution guarantees these childrens’ rights, not even mentioning the UN Children’s Rights Convention, the Law on the Protection of Children’s Rights, where it’s all clearly defined what the situation must be, how a child’s development must be ensured and a prospective future. For decades this hasn’t been done. One can rant and rave about it, but not one step closer have we come to what is guaranteed in the Satversme,” the nation’s official conscience-in-chief argued.

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