Slovak interpreter in UK: Children are only taken away for a reason
Petra Schwarczová, a Slovak interpreter who has been working in Great Britain for three years, has rejected the claims of Slovak TV station Joj that authorities are taking children away from Czech and Slovak Romani people for no reason. She first responded to the Joj reports in her blog. In an interview for Slovak news server SME.sk, she asserts that children are only removed from their families in the UK in cases where there have been long-term problems.
Schwarczová is not employed by social services but works as a freelance interpreter. "They call us to go anywhere and everywhere, I don't work only for social services," she told news server SME.sk. In her view, there are not many cases of families that have problems with caring for their children. When social welfare authorities start addressing a particular family, the problem must have been occurring for some time.
"These are very serious matters, not the ones that are being mentioned in the online discussions underneath the news articles. This definitely is not about parents spanking their children once or failing to get a vaccination. It has to be a long-term problem that someone else notices, whether that be teachers in school or the child's doctor. Police patrols also notice children who are out in public unsupervised. Or it's an extreme case in which action must be taken immediately. The authorities must feel the children are neglected or at risk," Schwarczová said.
The interpreter says authorities will take action once they are encouraged to do so. "However, that doesn't mean they take the children away immediately. They go have a chat with the family to evaluate the situation. Sometimes they determine that nothing is going on and they leave the situation as it is. On the other hand, something might not seem right to them, in which case they will start visiting the family more often. However, that does not mean they will immediately put the children in foster care. There are many experts involved in this," Schwarczová explains.
The interpreter rejects the information reported by TV Joj that an organized group is involved in the removal of these children. TV Joj alleged that such a group has been tempting Slovak citizens to move to the UK knowing that they will end up unemployed, with no backing in British society, and that authorities will then take their children away.
The TV Joj reporting described what it said was a typical supervised meeting between parents and the children who had been taken away from them, with parents complaining that the room in which they meet their children lacks a bed, tables or toys. Parents are said to get only 90 minutes with their children and to be monitored and recorded by bureaucrats and social workers the entire time. The parents also said the children are frequently hungry and ask for food, but that they are forbidden to bring them home-cooked meals. Witnesses described the situation as one of psychological terror.
Schwarczová does not view these visitations so dramatically. "I have attended those meetings with a given social worker, we are in the room where the mother comes for the visit. They bring the child there at a certain time. The mother and child play together, they can be in physical contact, the mother can feed the child. It's not true that displays of affection are banned. The social worker notes how the mother cares for the child and takes into account whether she makes it to all of the meetings," Schwarczová told news server SME.sk. The interpreter added that for the time being she has never experienced a situation in which the courts decided to put a child removed from its parents up for adoption.
"I only know of cases where children are put into foster care temporarily. However, I also know of cases where the court decided to return the children to their parents from foster care," says Schwarczová, adding that she knows of several parents who have gotten their children back. "In the cases in which I was involved, the parents had to attend the visitation meetings and medical checkups. They had to prove the children would have enough food and that each child has his or her own bed. The fundamental rights of the child must be honored. I don't have the feeling that the authorities need these parents to do anything special, just the basic things," Schwarczová told news server SME.sk.