Pets can be taken from a foster family: history

Pets can be taken from a foster family: history


In Ukraine, it is not the first year that they declare the goal of getting rid of orphanages and boarding schools, and giving preference to family upbringing of children who are deprived of parental care.

However, in practice this is often more difficult than on paper, and family-type children’s homes and foster families often encounter “non-children” problems

“UP. Life” learned about the history of the long struggle for their family by Leonid and Olga Lebedeva from Kyiv, who have 6 adopted children.

The family was asked to vacate the service apartment

The history of the Lebedev family began in 2006. 28-year-old Olga, not afraid of responsibility, took on the upbringing of two twin children herself.

After 2 years, the woman married Leonid, and they began to raise children together.

There were never any claims against the family on the part of state authorities, on the contrary, their family was set as an example.

In 2013, the family’s life changed radically: they adopted four more children deprived of parental care: two boys and two girls. Leonid says that this decision forced him to change his outlook. The husband left his job as a financier to spend more time with his children.

Now Leonid heads the children’s charitable foundation “Change one life – Ukraine”, for 15 years he has been engaged in protecting the rights of orphans and foster families, in 2019-2020 he was an adviser to the Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine.

At that time, the district authorities provided a service apartment to the family-type house of the Lebedevs, where they moved in as a large family.

Later, the eldest son of the Lebedevs went to serve in the army, and the eldest daughter got married. Another adopted son is currently studying in the USA.

However, in March 2022, when the Russians stormed Kyiv, the family received an order from the Solomyansk Service for Children and Family Affairs, which stated that the Lebedevs should leave their official residence, hand it over to the authorities and leave.

The reason was that since the older children have reached adulthood, the Lebedev family, according to the logic of the Service for Children and Family Affairs, is no longer considered a family-type orphanage (DBST)and is a foster family.

According to the legislation, for the formation of DBST, there must be at least 5 children in the family, and if less, then it is a foster family, which is not provided with official housing.

However, as the family’s lawyer noted Oleg Prostybozhenko, the legislation does not contain information that DBST cannot function with a smaller number of foster children. According to the information of the National Social Service Service, as of June 7, 2022, 86 out of 1,319 family-type orphanages in Ukraine had 1 to 4 foster children.

Leonid Lebedev emphasizes that the children’s affairs service changed their status to a foster family without their consent and signature and unilaterally terminated the joint agreement.

“The presence of 5 children is a condition for the creation of DBST, and not a condition for its continued operation. This has become the position of the Supreme Court, which is recorded by its rulings in similar disputes. In addition, there is also Article 114-1 of the Housing Code, which states that when DBST is liquidated and the children remain with their parents, the authority must provide the family with another equipped living space.” says Leonid Lebedev.

According to him, the officials were not concerned that the family had no other prepared housing.

“Although no structure will hand over a child to a family until they check the living conditions and the availability of a room for her. And they decided to kick us out into the street. I saw for myself how foster families are taken care of locally. We have the power when it comes to her interests, will go against any family, and officials will only care about their positions.” Leonid Lebedev is convinced.

According to the father of the foster family, the guardianship service constantly sent them letters in which they offered to leave the apartment, but no one was interested in the conditions of the children’s stay and their condition. Representatives of the service usually came to the Lebedevs in the morning, when the children were at school, they did not see the children and were not interested in their opinion.

Expert in the protection of children’s rights, lawyer Aksana Filipishyna for more than 30 years he has been dealing with the topic of creating DBST and foster families. She believes that the priority in resolving the conflict between the state and the foster family should be exclusively the interests of the children.

Aksana Filipishyna explained that according to the legislation, a family-type orphanage should raise from 5 to 10 children. If the children grow up or leave DBST, then they have to accommodate other children in the family.

“Then the status of the family is preserved, it has the right to use not only guarantees and benefits, but also has the right to provide official housing. The state also guarantees to equip this room with furniture and household appliances, so that it is comfortable to provide services for raising children.” – says the expert.

Expert in the protection of children’s rights, lawyer Aksana Filipyshyn

If children are not selected for the family, but other children continue to be brought up there, then such a family can be transferred by agreement in foster care status, where there can be from one to four children. Also, the contract on the creation of DBST can be terminated by court order.

“Such a family does not have the right to official housing, but provides services on its own living space. The difference is only in the number of children and housing”, – says Aksana Filipishyna.

However, the expert notes that in the case of the Lebedev family, the guardianship and care authority violated the procedure, since the contract on the creation of the DBST was terminated based on a decision, and not by agreement of the parties or by court order.

The Lebedev family appealed to the administrative court against the officials’ decision to unilaterally transfer the family to another status. The Lebedevs won the court of first instance: they were allowed to keep the status of a family-type orphanage and continue to live in official housing.

However, the body of guardianship filed an appeal and the previous decision of the court was annulled. The family was not allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, citing that the case was insignificant.

Leonid Lebedev says that he was forced to submit an application to the European Court of Human Rights, which found the application acceptable for consideration under Art. 8 of the UN Convention on Human Rights regarding the right to private and family life.

The case is currently under communication with the Government of Ukraine, to which the European Court has given a deadline until June of this year to provide explanations. That is, the position of the Cabinet of Ministers and an explanation of the situation are necessary for the adoption of a court decision, because it is a violation of people’s rights by the state.

“No children, no problem”

In July 2023, the Solomian Service for Children and Family Affairs filed a lawsuit new lawsuit which stated that since the Lebedevs do not want to sign an agreement on the creation of a foster family, do not vacate the official housing and violate the rights of children, the service asks the court to take their children under the care of the state.

But not because of a negative attitude towards children or violation of parental duties. The service found a formal reason – at the institution’s request, the parents did not receive a death certificate of the foster children’s biological mother from the department of state registration of civil status acts in time.

Lawyer Oleg Prostybozhenko is convinced that the real motive of this lawsuit is the seizure of the service apartment, which was given to the parents for the period of residence of the orphans.

“There are no children, there is no problem. The family refuses to leave the service apartment, because they do not have housing for such a large family. The interests of the children are not at all in this case,” – he says

Who are “state children” and is it in their best interest to remove them from their families?

“UP. Life” turned to the Service for Children and Families of the Solomyanska District State Administration in Kyiv with a written request regarding the situation surrounding the Lebedev family, but did not receive a response.

It was possible to hear the opinion of the officials only during the court session, which took place on February 13, 2024.

As she told the judge Victoria Davydenko, head of the Solomya Service for Children and Family Affairsin 2013, the Lebedev family-type orphanage was provided with an office apartment with an area of ​​240 square meters.

“Repairs were made there, it was equipped to accommodate up to 10 orphans, who can be placed there. Children from the Lebedev family began to die. We offered them to take more children, but they refused.” – says Davydenko.

Then the children’s service decided to liquidate the family-type orphanage on the basis of the Lebedev family and to create a foster family. However, the Lebedevs did not sign the contract on the change of status.

In addition, as the court found out, the Service for Children’s Affairs does not have reliable information about whether the Lebedev family has another home and where exactly they should move with their adopted children.

“They should take the children to their living space. At first, the parents reported that they have a house in the Kyiv region, but later at the commission meeting, the father reported that they do not have housing. That is, we do not know whether they have housing or not.” – says Victoria Davydenko.

The service appealed to the court with a request to stop the activities of the foster family they created and to remove the children from it.

To the judge’s question whether the plaintiffs have facts of violation of the rights of children in the family, the heads of the service answered that the Lebedevs in time did not collect the death certificate of the children’s biological mother, and also did not register them on time during their stay abroad in 2022.

The service did not report any other violations of children’s rights. On the contrary, they said that the Lebedevs were “protecting the children”, but they were breaking the law, in particular by not signing the contract and living in an apartment that they had to vacate.

Heads of the service used the term “state children”, although there is no such concept in the legislation. Officials did not ask the opinion of foster children aged 11, 15 and 16.

The Lebedev children were taken into the family when they were very young and lived together for 11 years. They call Leonid and Olga “mom” and “dad”. The family travels together, the children have friends and a social circle. The children’s natural mother, who did not perform parental duties, recently died.

However, the judge of the Solomyansk Court refused to meet the demands of the representatives of the Service for Children and Family Affairs – to terminate the existence of the foster family and remove the children. The parties can appeal this decision in a higher court.

“The situation must be resolved taking into account the interests of the children”

One of the key problems of the reform of the boarding system with preference for family forms of raising children is that the state focuses more on finding candidates for adoptive parents and foster parents, and not on strengthening social support and providing guarantees to those who have already taken responsibility for children, believes Oleksandr Vasiliev, member of the board of the All-Ukrainian Association of Foster Parents.

“It’s more logical to strengthen what you have than to only hope for what you don’t have.” says he.

Aksana Filipishyna doubts that the removal of minors from the family is in their interests.

“If adults are guided by some formal procedures and do not agree in such a way that the rights and interests of the child are ensured, then, in my opinion, this is wrong. As far as I know, the children in Mr. Lebedev’s family lived for 11 years. Today they are children of teenage age . They grew up in a family environment, got used to certain living conditions, adoptive parents, attend schools”she says.

Aksana Filipishyna noted that placement of children in another family can only be with their consent.

She also said that in practice, it is extremely difficult to place teenage children in a foster family or DBST, because the foster parents do not very actively want to take formed personalities who have their own life history.

“It is one thing to agree with a 1-year-old child and another with a teenage child. Unfortunately, such children end up in boarding schools. At a time when the state declares that every child should be provided with family education, instead of negotiating and go to meet the family, so that they continue to raise children, we break through the knee”she says.

In Filipishina’s opinion, given the fact that the children are doing well in the family, because the guardianship body did not provide facts that this was not the case, the state should have applied an individual approach.

“If we are talking about the best interests of the child, then the guardianship authority should find ways for the children to remain in the family. This situation should be resolved in the best interests of the children. We all reproach the aggressor country for violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to our children, deporting them.

Ukraine must act on the basis of Article 3 of the Convention, which states that all authorities, judicial bodies and officials who decide on issues concerning children must use the principle of the best interests of the child. – says the expert.

Yana Osadchaespecially for UP. Life


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