On Universal Children’s Day, 20th November the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) publishes a new set of findings on differences in legal minimum ages to help the EU and its Member States eliminate inconsistencies, protection gaps and seemingly arbitrary restrictions resulting from different age thresholds. To highlight these differences the Agency mapped the national legal age requirements in various areas across the EU.
Experts of Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb submitted their comments on the proposed Ordinance on amendments to the Rules on the procedure and cooperation of a judge, a professional worker of the social welfare center and a police officer for juveniles during the forcible seizure and surrender of a child, who is in the public discussion until 29 May 2018. We believe that proposed draft changes actually represent an additional risk factor for the safety and welfare of children that forementioned Rules are supposed to protect. We suggest that such amendments and additions to the regulations should not be accepted, and also, that Article 11a should be entirely omitted.
We sent the following letter to the Ministry of Justice and attached it to the comments on the website https://esavjetovanja.gov.hr/ECon/MainScreen?entityId=7451:
“Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb
Đorđićeva 26, Zagreb
Zagreb, 29th May 2018
Ministry of Justice
Subject: Objections to the proposed ORDINANCE ON AMENDMENTS TO THE RULES ON THE PROCEDURE AND COOPERATION OF A JUDGE, A PROFESSIONAL WORKER OF THE SOCIAL WELFARE CENTER AND A POLICE OFFICER FOR JUVENILES DURING THE FORCIBLE SEIZURE AND SURRENDER OF A CHILD
As mental health professionals who are in their clinical practice daily encounter cases of emotional abuse, emotional neglect and manipulation of children and the system in the divorce proceedings, and we are familiar with the current research literature dealing with the nature, effects and best science-based interventions with children who are victims of parental manipulation, we need to react to the proposed Ordinance, ie the proposal for the introduction of Article 11a in the existing Regulations, which states:
“(1) If it is, from the date of issue a writ of execution until the day of the execution of a custodial order for forced seizure and surrender of a child has been pass more than a year, the court shall, because of possible alteration of the circumstance that enforcement order would be contrary to the welfare of the child, impose urgent implementation expertise of the child and / or a parent or other person with should live and / or lives by an expert psychologist and / or a psychiatrist, by selecting an expert from the list of court experts.
(2) Exceptionally from paragraph (1) of this Article, the court shall order the expert opinion of a child if, during the implementation of enforcement general believes that the forcible seizure and surrender of a child can cause health and other psychological and physical consequences for the child.
(3) The court shall inform the parties and all the bodies involved in the execution of the enforcement order for the purpose of forcible seizure and surrender of the child as soon as possible on the finding and opinion of the expert referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article.
(4) Enforcement order for the purpose of forcible seizure and surrender of the child will be postponed if the findings and opinions of expert from paragraphs 1 and 2 shows that the implementation of enforcement would be contrary to the welfare of the child or that the child is completely coalesce with the environment in which he/she lives or that forced seizure and surrender of a child can cause health and other psychological and physical consequences for the child, for the time for which the expert estimated that the implementation of enforcement for the child would be harmful.”
We believe that proposed draft changes actually represent an additional risk factor for the safety and welfare of children that would be described Rules supposed to protect. We suggest that such amendments and additions to the regulations do not make at all, and that Article 11a entirely omitted.
The Judge’s decision on the execution of a lawsuit is made after a final court judgment based on extensive scientific-based assessment procedures by relevant experts and relevant institutions. In cases where a decision to enforce a decision has been made, it is clearly established that staying in the present situation endangering the child’s further socio-emotional development, which poses a serious risk to the development of mental health disorders in children and adolescents. Therefore, there is no reason for delaying the procedure and repetition of expert judgment, either of a child or a parent.
The fundamental problem is not the justification of the decision of execution itself, but the efficiency of execution in practice, and only the length of court proceedings, as well as the procedures within the system involved in the protection of children who preceded to them. Namely, The Convention on the Rights of the Child and national regulations require that the child’s best interests to be in the implementation of court decisions and interventions that are specific to them, must respect the principle of urgency. If the environment is endangered for the child, each additional day spent in the child’s toxic environment presents an increasing risk of negative outcomes for the child’s well-being and mental health. By staying in an environment that is endangering, the child does not “coalesce with the environment” (as stated in the Ordinance on amendments the existing Rulebook), but rather a “coalesce” with a manipulative parent. Manipulative parents thus get time-consuming and deepen their harmful impact on the child, which actually reduces the probability of successful implementation of a measure that is already considered necessary for the safety and healthy development of the child.
Given the fact that we meet children on a daily basis with a high level of inter-parental conflict and its consequences, we know how the position and role that the child takes tough and emotionally devastating for him. In order to emotionally survive, the child often merge with that parent whose condition of love are rejection of the other parent. In this way, the child is no longer allowed to have their own emotions, needs and opinions if they are different in relation to the emotions, needs and opinions of the manipulative parent (and often his/her family). The child is forcibly partially or completely dismissed reject the other parent, for which the child protection institutions and the court have been assessed to have better parental competence than the parent they live with, and actually abolish the part of yourself that identifies with the other parent.
The described elements of the Rules will represent another instrument of manipulation of the parent which is already established that the child endangering. Thus, a system that should protect the best interests of the child would actually corroborated the harmful and abusive behaviour of the parent and directly participate in inflicting harm on the child.
From the perspective of scientific knowledge in this area, clinical practice and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, such a proposal of the Rulebook is considered to be harmful to children involved in high-conflict divorce as well as all other children who have been identified as urgent and immediate need to be removal from a harmful environment for their development.
Employees of the Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb ”