Thirty children from the Czech Republic found a new home abroad last year, according to data released by the Office for Legal Protection of Children. Most of the children, who would otherwise have spent their childhood in institutional care, were boys of up to five years old. They were refused by Czech adoptive families mainly due to their handicaps or ethnic background.
Since it started negotiating international adoptions 20 years ago, the Office for Legal Protection of Children entrusted altogether 700 children from the Czech Republic to families abroad, mainly in Denmark and Germany.
According to the head of the office, Zdeněk Kapitán, the vast majority of children who were offered for international adoption either had some physical or mental handicaps or came from a different ethnic background.
“The reason why our regional offices fail to find an adoptive family for some of the children is either their ethnic origin, although I am only speculating, or some handicap, such as fetal alcohol syndrome or prenatal substance abuse.
“Our most common clients are boys of approximately four years of age, who come from the region of Ústí nad Labem. Although we don’t register our children’s ethnicity, a vast majority of them are Romany children.”
According to Mr Kapitán, ethnicity still plays a significant role for Czechs who consider adopting a child, unlike in Scandinavia, where adoption is regarded as a service for the abandoned children.
“Denmark, a small state of eight million, is a leading country when it comes to international adoptions. This is where most modern adoption trends come from.
“International adoption is also very common in Sweden. The Swedes frequently adopt children with special needs, children with disabilities and children who come from socially disadvantaged families.”
Over the past 20 years, more than 180 children from the Czech Republic ended up in adoptive families in Denmark. Some 120 children were adopted by families in Germany and around the same number ended up in Sweden.
Children from the Czech Republic also frequently end up in Italy, Spain, Austria or Iceland. From the 700 children adopted abroad over the past 20 years, over 460 were boys and around 230 were girls.
“I have received positive feedback from advocates, experts in child-care, the foreign ministry as well as various non-profit organisations, who all say the office’s standard of work is very high and professional.”
Among other things, the Office for Legal Protection of Children also mediates international adoptions for Czech parents. Czechs who wish to adopt a child from abroad can also negotiate directly with the offices in the children’s country of origin.
However, interest in international adoptions has so far been very low in the Czech Republic. Last year, Czechs adopted only five children from foreign countries, including Slovakia, Russia and Congo.