Guardianship (care) - the care, upbringing and education of a child deprived of parental care that has been entrusted to a natural or legal person in accordance with the procedure laid down by law, the creation and maintenance of conditions suitable for the child’s spiritual and physical growth, and the protection of his/her personal property rights and his/her legitimate interests, and the representation and protection of them.
Guardianship (care) is established for a child when the child’s parents are unable to bring up the child on their own due to a variety of unfavourable circumstances, such as addictions, illness, a lack of social skills, neglect of the child or abuse of parental authority.
A child under 14 is placed under guardianship and a guardian is appointed. For children over 14, care is provided and a carer is appointed. These concepts refer to the involvement of the child in decisions affecting him/her or representing his/her interests, with the child taking on more responsibility. There is no fundamental difference between the duties of a guardian and a carer.
The participants in child guardianship (care) are the child without parental care, the child’s biological family (parents and relatives of the child) and the guardian (carer). This guardianship (care) is carried out in cooperation with child rights protection and other institutions involved in protecting children’s rights.
The procedures for the establishment and supervision of the guardianship of a child are governed by Regulations on the Organisation of the Guardianship of a Child.
Types of guardianship
Temporary guardianship (care) of a child – the care, upbringing, representation and protection of the rights and legitimate interests of a child who is temporarily deprived of parental care, whether in a family, a foster family, a foster care centre, or a children’s guardianship (care) institution. The aim of temporary guardianship (care) is to return the child to his/her family. The organisation of temporary guardianship is governed by the Regulations on Temporary Guardianship (Care) of a Child. The aim of temporary guardianship - to return the child to his/her family. Temporary guardianship is established by order of the director of the municipal administration.
Permanent guardianship (care) of a child – is established for children without parental care who cannot return to their biological family under the existing conditions, and their care, upbringing, representation of their rights and legitimate interests, and their protection are entrusted to another family, foster family, or a children’s foster care institution. Permanent guardianship is established by a court order on the basis of an application from the state authority for the protection of children’s rights or a prosecutor.
Forms of guardianship
Guardianship (care) in the family – the care of up to three children (the total number of children in a family with its own children is up to six) in a natural family environment. When a child is placed under guardianship (care) in the family of a natural person and a natural person or spouses are appointed as guardian (carer).
Guardianship (care) in a foster family – a form of guardianship in which a legal person (a foster family) takes care of four or more children (the total number of children in a foster family with its own children is not more than eight children) in a family environment. When a child is placed under guardianship (care) in a foster family and a legal entity - a foster family is appointed as the child’s guardian (carer).
Guardianship (care) in a foster care centre – when the child is placed under guardianship (care) in a foster care centre and a legal entity (the foster care centre) is appointed as his/her guardian (carer), and the child’s place of residence is in the family of the guardian on duty.
Guardianship (care) in a children’s care institution – a child left without parental care is placed in a children’s care institution only in exceptional cases, when it is not possible to foster (care for) him/her in the family, in a foster care centre or in a foster family. When a child is placed under guardianship (care) in a social care institution and a legal entity - a social care institution is appointed as the child’s guardian (carer).
The child's guardian (carer) and his/her duties
Guardian (carer) – a person who has been appointed temporary or permanent guardianship (care) of a child. A natural or legal person can be a guardian (carer) of a child.
The duties of a child’s guardian (carer), and any failure to fulfil them, are regulated by law.
The child’s guardian (carer) must:
- ensure the child’s physical and mental safety;
- ensure the child’s health and education;
- educate the child;
- cooperate with the state and local authorities concerned in matters relating to the best interests of the child;
- not to interfere with the child’s contact with his/her parents, provided that this is not detrimental to the best interests of the child;
- maintain contact with the child’s parents, informing the child’s parents or close relatives, if they so wish, about the child’s development, health, education and other relevant matters;
- provide for the child’s leisure time, taking into account the child’s age, health, development and inclinations;
- prepare the child for independent life and work in the family, civil society and the State.
In cases where the guardian (carer) does not perform his/her duties properly, does not ensure the protection of the child’s rights and interests, or uses his/her rights for selfish purposes, in the case of temporary guardianship (care) he/she may be removed from the duties of guardian (carer) by a decision of the director of the municipal administration, and in the case of permanent guardianship (care), he/she may be removed from his/her functions as guardian (carer) by a decision of a court.
Importantly, in cases where the guardian (carer) is unable to carry out his/her duties properly because of his/her own or his/her close relatives’ illness, the deterioration of his/her financial situation, or any other compelling reason, the person may be removed from his/her duties as the child’s guardian (carer) by a court decision.
Choosing a guardian (carer) for a child
It is a child’s natural right to grow and develop within the family, which is why the best interests of the child are always best served by guardianship (care) within the family. The foster care centre, the municipality and the service’s territorial division must make every effort to find a family that can care for a child. The first place to look for a guardian (carer) is among relatives and people who are emotionally connected to the child (family friends, neighbours, godparents, etc.), followed by a foster family or a guardian on duty.
If there is no guardian (carer) in the family or guardian on duty who can take care of the child, guardianship (care) can be established in a foster family.
A child can only be placed in a foster care institution in exceptional cases when it is not possible to care for him/her in a family, care centre or foster family. In this case, the child will be placed in a foster care institution that best suits the child’s age and best interests.
Guardianship of a child under the age of three in a children’s foster care institution in accordance with the procedure laid down by law may be established only in exceptional cases and only with the approval of the state authority for the protection of the rights of the child, and it may last no longer than three months, unless the child is in need of specialised health care and/or nursing care services, the provision of which cannot be ensured if the child is placed with a family, a care centre or a foster family, or if separating the child from his or her siblings would be contrary to the child's best interests.