The Rainbow Family Association recently filed a motion to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia for the assessment of the constitutionality of the new Foster Care Act. Representatives of the Association said on that occasion that the part of the Foster Care Act defining “foster families” is not only incompatible with the Constitution, but with a series of existing acts as well as international documents that are in their legal force above Croatian legislation.
“The European Court of Human Rights issued several judgments, for example against France or Austria, in which it confirmed that same-sex couples or LGBT people should have equal access to rights in a comparable situation as heterosexual couples or persons, and these judgments are binding on Croatian legislation when adopting new laws, “said Zrinka Bojanić, attorney representing the Rainbow Family Association in this proceeding. It seems that the binding judgements are a fact that Croatian politicians continue to systematically ignore.
The new Foster Care Act has once again sent a message to life partners that they are second-class citizens, while the best interest of the child has not been taken into account. Children deprived of adequate parental care were told that it would be better for them to remain in an institution than to be fostered by a same-sex couple who would provide them with a warm home, support and happier childhood.
The adopted Act is additionally paradoxical because gays and lesbians in the Republic of Croatia can apply for an assessment process for becoming a foster carer unless they have decided to contract a life partnership, being single both of them.
Part of such stories are already known to the public – we have had examples of couples who have decided to foster or adopt, for example, Rroma children of any age, brothers, sisters, and even those with health problems and difficulties – children who spend their entire childhood in orphanages because it is hard to place them in foster families. They would report to a social welfare centre, with an intention to foster a child, get positive assessment, and then the process would be stopped because they had contracted a life partnership.
Such limitation to access the right of foster parenting is even more concerning if we take into account the fact that Croatian orphanages, year after year, record a growing number of children and the implementation of the Foster Care Act was supposed to solve that. At present, around 1,000 children are placed in orphanages in Croatia, and only in 2017, 54 percent more than the year before – an increase of as many as 641 children occurred.
The number of children under the age of three who are placed in orphanages is growing, although according to the Social Welfare Act, children under the age of seven, especially under the age of three, should not be placed in orphanages, but in foster families.
Foster care is one of the forms of child care that appears as an alternative to institutional care for children, and its advantage is precisely in the fact that it provides family environment. Despite various problems, the consensus of the profession is that the child is better in a family environment than in an orphanage, but in Croatia the process of foster parenting has continually been hindered and limited.
Rainbow Family Association has also warned about the fostering aspect that has rarely been talked about, and that is adult foster care.
“The number of elderly and helpless persons who would also experience incredible improvement in their living conditions in a foster home has been growing as well. Not everybody has enough money to live in an elderly care home or to provide adequate conditions to help people with physical, sensory, intellectual or mental impairments. Adult foster care, in this case, provides these people help and a quality and dignified life”, emphasized the members of the Association.
They hope that, while assessing the constitutionality, the Constitutional Court will recognize and prevent discrimination of life partners and do what Croatian politicians have not done for years – make a positive step forward towards equality for all citizens of the Republic of Croatia, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.