NIK is critical of local government units that run orphanages

LGUs had eight years to adapt the orphanages to the standards set out in the Family Support Act and the Foster Care System. However, most of them postponed until the last minute, resulting in numerous shortcomings – according to the Court of Audit’s report on the implementation of care and education tasks in orphanages.

The Court of Audit states that the care and education tasks in orphanages provide insufficient and individualized support for the levies. Most of the orphanages inspected did not adapt to the new legal requirements: the number limits were exceeded and the age limits for admitted students were not met, there were no educators, disabled children were placed in unprepared socialization centers and there was also reprehensible behavior from employees towards children to.

As the Supreme Court recalled, since 2015, the Family Support and Foster Care System Act limited the possibility to admit children under 7 years old to institutions, and from 2020 – under 10 years old. The deadline for adapting orphanages to the requirement that the maximum number of 14 children stay in the facility was December 31, 2020.

“Local government units running orphanages had eight years to transform them to meet the required standards. Most of them put it off and left the transformation until the last minute,” the audit report emphasized.

The chamber’s inspectors noted that although the facilities looked after children 24 hours a day and provided basic needs, the performance of care and teaching duties did not comply with legal principles.

“The regulations indicate the need to provide children with individual help in dealing with their own and other people’s emotions. Meanwhile, in as many as 8 controlled socialization institutions, the burden was not covered by specialized activities adapted to their needs, either in the orphanages themselves or outside of them. In one specialty and therapeutic facility, regulatory and statutory duties were not performed, largely depriving the cost of comprehensive assistance appropriate to the needs diagnosed,” the report reads.

According to the findings of the audit, only three of the 21 institutions inspected provided children with the help of psychologists, educators and therapists, and costs from 10 orphanages were referred for therapy to outside entities – where, however, they did not receive ongoing assistance to the same extent as in the case of employees working in specialized facilities.

Psychophysical diagnoses and plans to help children were made incorrectly, and some diagnoses were made by unauthorized persons on distant dates (up to 1021 days after taking the child). The support plans, which must be developed immediately after the diagnosis, have been drawn up with considerable delay (up to 189 days after the diagnosis) or with incomprehensible progress (in 8 orphanages even six months before the diagnosis is made). †

The High Court also stated that in most audited socialization centers (which were not prepared to provide specialist care) there were a total of 76 children with a disability certificate, although by law such pupils must be placed in specialized and therapeutic institutions , using appropriate educational methods and therapies. This happened partly because of the insufficient number of specialized and therapeutic facilities, the lack of vacancies or the need not to separate siblings.

The auditors also noted that many counties have chosen to formally divide homes into smaller ones as a way of meeting standards without changing existing working practices. Under the Family and Foster Care Support Act, from 1 January 2021, the number of children residing in the reception and education facility may not exceed 14. This requirement was met in only 6 facilities. In the other cases, the number of children placed was no less than 16 higher than the admissible.

“Twelve branches were divided into smaller ones, with the newly established branches being placed in the same buildings as the existing ones. This led to a situation where up to five outlets with shared rooms were operating in one location. Only three orphanages were each located in separate buildings, which is in accordance with the law,” the report emphasizes.

In most institutions the legal minimum age for taxes was not respected. Children as young as a month or even a week old were placed in it, resulting in the need to provide them with more care and, consequently, the level of care and educational activities performed relative to the other children. Only three orphanages admitted only children older than 10 years. In 15 institutions, younger children were admitted with older siblings (legal condition), and in three – without meeting this condition.

According to the Court of Audit, employees in only 8 institutions inspected met all legal requirements, both in terms of education and the opportunity to work with children. People who worked in 3 institutions as director, educator, therapist and childcare provider did not have the required training. In 10 facilities, there was a lack of documents confirming, among other things, failure to identify workers with a valid penalty for an intentional offense or lack of contraindications to work. In 10 orphanages, the details of employees in the Sex Offenders Register have also not been verified.

In 8 institutions, too few educators were employed, resulting in too high a fee for participation in care and education activities (even by 12 children above the legal limit). This was not conducive to effective care for each child, especially at night. In the case of longer absences, educators were replaced by people who were not authorized to carry out care and education activities.

In 3 orphanages there was unacceptable and reprehensible behavior of employees (inappropriate, violent actions, mental and physical abuse of children). In one of the cases, legal proceedings were pending, in the other a report was made to the public prosecutor.

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