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May 23, 2022



Renata Berkyová: Slovak party wants to take Romani children from their families to counter public fears

16.9.2015 22:50
Renata Berkyová  (PHOTO:  Private archive).
Renata Berkyová (PHOTO: Private archive).

One might think that the state removing children from the care of their own parents in order to re-educate them is an historical phenomenon only. In Slovakia, though, Ms Nicholsonová of the "Freedom and Solidarity" Party has said she believes such a concept could spare Romani children from "inhuman treatment" in the settlements.

Nicholsonová claims that the state must take decisive steps when it comes to the upbringing of such children, and when all options for correcting the situation have failed, these children should be removed from their families and placed in foster care. What does it mean, though, for options for correction to be exhausted?  

Isn't this approach a hidden acknowledgment of the state's own failure? It seems that patience has run out and that instead of providing consistent social work to these families, we are now opting for an extremely final solution.

It is genuinely startling that this so-called liberal party is bringing up this concept, given that it has otherwise never been afraid of the topic of Romani settlements in Slovakia and has otherwise contributed some rather rational proposals for improving the situation of Slovak Roma. Its program, however, also includes points that represent extreme solutions that have been practiced in the past before, with consequences that were fatal as far as improving the situation was concerned and that are incompatible with liberal principles.

Such measures include, for example, the proposed "voluntary sterilizations" or the removal of children from Romani families for placement with foster families. Through this proposal, as Nicholsonová's declaration itself states, the party is now beginning to take account of recent events in the settlements, where mass battles have broken out between their occupants.  

One wonders whether this concept isn't a bit motivated by the fear that such an aggressive mob can spark in others. Are we concerned about the safety of Romani children, or about our own safety?

"If the state takes an honest, patient approach to the question of this segregated Romani society, then in several years a generation of Romani people will grow up here who will not spread fear, but will become full-fledged members of society," the party's declaration concludes. If I were to imagine the state taking an "honest, patient" approach to this issue, however, I decidedly would not imagine removing children from their families to be raised by strangers (to say nothing of the fact that this model has already been practiced for about 50 years in Slovakia), but I would imagine high-quality social work in the field, performed in accordance with respect for cultural customs and various traditions.

That is the gap the state needs to fill. We also must reflect on why there was no similar concern expressed for the safety of Romani people when the recent police raids in the settlements came to light.

It is remarkable that the seriousness of this situation is only ever assessed in one direction, and then only at certain moments. The concept of removing children from their families to be raised by strangers has never addressed the cause of these problems and never will.  

Such across-the-board edicts will, among other things, make it possible for social workers to abuse their powers and ultimately can cause more harm to people's lives than good. In reality such ideas just allow politicians to wash their hands of undertaking long-term solutions - because long-term solutions are never well-suited to an election campaign. 

Renata Berkyová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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