German children with Hungarian foster parents – the Ombudsman expects more attention from the actors of the warning system, and more detailed information from the competent ministry

The authorities responsible for the protection of children did not receive any information on the fact that some extremely vulnerable children in state care in Germany had been placed in foster care in Hungary. Thus the Hungarian authorities and service providers could not have taken the necessary measures even if the rights of those children, not speaking Hungarian and stuck in a foreign environment, had been infringed. In his report, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has made a recommendation to the Minister of Human Capacities: the authorities responsible for the protection of children should be informed, at least at county level, on the placement of foreign children in Hungarian foster care.

The Commissioner learned from the press that, in Baranya County, many German children had been placed with foster parents lacking both the necessary qualifications and language skills. According to the media reports, those vulnerable children, finding themselves in a foreign language environment, did not receive adequate education and care.

In connection with the regulatory background of the issue, the Ombudsman's ex officio investigation revealed that, according to a directive of the Council of the European Union, children from a Member State may be lawfully placed with foster parents in another Member State without the latter's authorization and monitoring obligation. In such cases, Hungary's task is merely to issue a formal declaration of consent.

The investigation found that neither the Child Protection and Guardianship Department of the Ministry of Human Capacities, the Hungarian central authority designated under the directive, nor the Baranya County Government Office had knowledge of the children's vulnerability or the fact that they had been placed in contravention of the directive's provisions. The German authorities entitled to monitor the service providers had not received any notification thereof; therefore, they could not take the appropriate measures. Thus the Commissioner could not establish any fundamental-rights-related impropriety vis-à-vis the Hungarian authorities and, in the absence of jurisdiction, he could not investigate the possible defaults of the German authorities.

The report states: the Committee on the Rights of the Child has called, on several occasions, the German authorities attention to the fact that their practice to place children with conduct disorder, taken into state care, in other EU Member States without proper monitoring and evaluation gives cause for concern from the standpoint of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights deemed important to call the attention of all parties concerned to the fact that the German children could meet the actors of the Hungarian child protection warning system. They were provided healthcare, could get in touch with institutions of public education, i.e., their presence here was well known to many. In the Ombudsman's view, it is important to point out that in case these children get in a vulnerable position in Hungary, the actors of the warning system having noticing it must take the necessary measures.

According to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, it would help the operation of the warning system if the authorities responsible for protection knew about children of foreing nationality placed in their area of jurisdiction.  In the absence of information, the requirement of legal certainty and the principle of proceedings taking into account the child's best interest cannot be duly enforced, and the right to care and protection may be compromised, i.e., there is a risk of infringement.

Based on the above, Ombudsman László Székely has recommended to the Minister of Human Capacities to ensure that at least the government offices should be notified when the central authority gives its consent to the placement of a child of foreign nationality in Hungarian foster care. The Commissioner has also requested the Minister to forward his report to the guardianship and legal affairs department of each government office, and–translated into German–to the central authority of Germany.