After the elections of 2020 in Belarus, not only the rights of adults but also the rights of children have been vilated. The authorities put pressure on opposition-minded parents through minors. They are threatened with CPS or child protection services, the recognition of a family as socially dangerous and the removal of their children.
The team of the initiative group "SPRAVKA" analyzed how state agencies recognize families as dysfunctional.
A "dysfunctional" family can be fully controlled
According to the Belarusian Constitution, children are protected by the state. There is also a special resolution of the Council of Ministers from January 15, 2019 "On the recognition of children as being in a socially dangerous situation." The idea of the CPS is that children whose rights and interests in families are violated are promptly protected by the state.
CPS can work effectively when parents beat children, don't watch over them, don't feed them, and don't clothe them. But the state uses this institution to repress political activists. They are threatened with having their perfectly normal families registered as dysfunctional.
Representatives of government agencies can systematically come to homes with "inspections". They will always find something to complain about. And then they threaten to take the children away from their parents.
But threatening to put children on the register is illegal
Often parents do not know their rights, and the police and guardianship authorities do not explain them. Children can be registered with CPS or taken away for three reasons, which are spelled out in the above-mentioned decision of the Council of Ministers. The first reason is that parents do not meet the basic necessities of life of a child. Second - the parents do not monitor the child's behavior and lifestyle, as a result of which the child commits administrative offenses or crimes. The third one is that the parents have an immoral lifestyle, abuse the child, abuse their rights, which leads to danger for the life and health of the child.
"This list is limited, which means that for no other reasons can a child be placed or removed from the register. Threatening to register a child is even illegal," says human rights activist Darya Churko.
In 2021, she interviewed representatives of 24 families who had been threatened with having their families placed on the CPS registry or had their children removed. Victims of these actions said that claims were made against them for "inadequate child care," "a letter from the police," and "a threat to the life of a child". Even distance learning in coronavirus times could have been the cause. But in fact it was a matter of "political" administrative or criminal articles of the parents.
"Respondents indicated that mostly the school called and said that "we need to check on the family, because a letter from the police came". At the same time, the school representatives directly said that it was related to the parents' political activities," Churko continued.
How it happens
The six-year old son of Minsk opposition activists Alena Lazarchyk and Siarhey Matskoit was taken straight from school to the orphanage after his mother had failed to pick him up from after-school care. She couldn't do it because shortly before the police detained her outside the Human Rights Center "Viasna". The teachers did not contact the boy's grandmother and adult sister and called the CPS.
Hundreds of indifferent Minskers came to the orphanage where Alena and Siarhey's son was being held. On that day, the son was given to his mother. But later a criminal case was launched against her, and the family was separated.
A little earlier, in June 2020, a kindergarten representatives in Hrodna came to check on the home of Uladzimir Navumik, who had been detained three weeks earlier along with Siarhey Tsikhanouski. According to his wife Vitalia Navumik, after the inspection of the apartment, she was read a document. It said that the apartment was a mess, with cigarettes and bottles of alcohol.
"I said that we don't smoke or drink in our family. And they answered me: do you understand that they will take your child away from you? They said we would have to deal with it, collect documents and employment reference," recounts Vitalia.
In some cases, such politically motivated "social investigations" were ordered by the police, in others by district executive committees, the "SPRAVKA" says.
"Children are afraid to go to school"
In fact, instead of protecting children's rights in Belarus, CPS helps the police gather information about politically active people and support repression. There have been cases where children were pressured in schools because of their parents' political views.
"A common form of pressure directly on children is conversation with children without parental consent," writes Darya Churko. "Very often young children are taken away by the school psychologist for a conversation. Parents are not notified about such talks and their topics are not told to parents in advance. Female respondents also stated that children were summoned to talk to the district police officer. One of the women indicated that her nine-year-old child was intimidated by the police that he would be taken away from the family, from his mother.