Polish orphanages are bad places

Polish orphanages are bad places – this is how you can summarize the results of the inspection of the functioning of healthcare and educational institutions by the Supreme Court in one sentence. As a result, the Association discovered a number of deficiencies in the functioning of the factories and made extensive requests to their managers and founding bodies. What is wrong, or is something even right? Is there still hope for Polish orphanages? We take a close look at the NIK report.

Placing a child in an institution is usually a traumatic experience for them. Separation from the family, new place, new people – all this strongly affects the still undeveloped psyche of a young person. According to the Court of Auditors, in such a situation, the facility should take measures aimed at the individual need for levies.

Under the Family Support Act and the Foster Care System, activities aimed at helping children in the institution would constitute a coherent and chronological sequence of events in which not only educators, but also specialists participate actively. It is about providing children with the help of psychologists, educators and therapists. Unfortunately, the functioning of Polish orphanages looks very different in practice.

Polish orphanages are bad places. Is there anything that NIK has rated well in their operation?

The NIK audit covered 21 health and education centers in 5 voivodeships. The orphanages involved in the study are shown in the image below:

Let’s start with the positives. As NIK writes:

In each facility, children received 24-hour care and basic needs fulfillment. However, the implementation of care and education tasks did not meet the statutory principles.

In addition, all facilities complied with the rules of conduct applicable to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Unfortunately it ends well here. As we read:

Most orphanages did not adapt to the new legal requirements: numerical limits were exceeded and age limits for admitted pupils were not met, there were no educators, disabled children were placed in unprepared socialization centers, which in turn had a negative effect on the level of care a benefit. There were some reprehensible behaviors by employees towards children.

Polish orphanages are bad places when it comes to helping students deal with their emotions.

The inspection revealed that only in 3 (out of 21!) inspected institutions the children were cared for with the help of psychologists, educators and therapists. Of the respondents, 10 orphanages referred children to external agencies for therapies. However, according to the High Court of Auditors, they did not receive the same guarantee for ongoing assistance as with specialists working in the institutions.

Children in most institutions did not receive proper psychophysical diagnoses and treatment plans. In 9 orphanages, the obligatory sheets of psychological examinations and observations were not prepared at all. In the next 8 – cards for participating in classes with a psychologist. Participation cards for the therapist’s activities have been drawn up in only 5 orphanages.

Most diagnoses turned out to be wrong. In addition, in many cases they were prepared by unauthorized persons on distant dates (up to 1021 days after taking the child). The same goes for emergency plans. As NIK writes, they were prepared either with a significant delay (up to 189 days after the diagnosis) or with incomprehensible progress (in 8 orphanages even six months before the diagnosis was made).

Exceeding numbers and age limits, lack of educators, violence against children

Under the Family Support and Foster Care Act, from 1 January 2021, the number of children residing in the care and educational institution may not exceed 14. Only 6 inspected institutions met this requirement. In the other cases, the number of children placed was no less than 16 higher than the allowable.

Moreover, because of the insufficient number of specialized and therapeutic facilities, disabled children also go to socialization orphanages. In total, the inspected institutions counted 76 children with a disability certificate. Dealing with such people should include special teaching methods and therapies. Socialization orphanages cannot provide this.

The problem also concerned the number and training of staff. Only in 8 inspected establishments did the employees meet the legal requirements with regard to education and the possibility to work with children. Many orphanages employed too few educators. In addition, employees who were absent for extended periods were replaced by people who were not qualified to teach education and care.

NIK also writes about the reprehensible behavior of employees, which has been observed in 3 inspected orphanages. It is about inappropriate, violent activities and about mental and physical abuse of children. As the House states, in one of the cases there was a legal procedure, in the other a notification to the public prosecutor.

Recommendations of the Supreme Court: we need more institutions whose work is organized in such a way as to guarantee the care and safety of children

As a result of the investigation, the Supreme Court of Auditors (NIK) has addressed extensive requests to the Minister of Family and Social Policy, the founding bodies of the institutions and their managers. The main postulates include:

  • take actions to support the proliferation of specialized and therapeutic care and education institutions,
  • adhere to the boundaries of referred children and reside in care and educational institutions,
  • employ people who meet all the requirements in healthcare and educational institutions,
  • provide children with permanent and comprehensive services tailored to their individual needs and appropriate psychological, pedagogical and therapeutic care,
  • guarantee children the right to protection from degrading treatment and punishment,
  • documenting work with children,
  • periodically assessing the situation of children.

The results of the audit are very worrying. It is worth noting that 21 institutions were inspected and practically in all institutions there was something wrong, and violent behavior was detected in 3. According to the Central Statistical Office, 1,273 foster care institutions were active in Poland at the end of 2021. Of which 1,260 care and educational institutions. So the question arises, what is the situation in the other factories? The cross-sectional results of the audit suggest that it is not good.

Given that there are many children in institutional care (end of 2021 – 15.9 thousand), all measures must be taken to really help these children. It remains to be hoped that the results of the inspection will translate into a decisive response from the authorities. Because so far it’s true – Polish orphanages are bad places.

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