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Crisis spells more abandoned children

The number of children abandoned at children's hospitals is rising, in what is one of the more disturbing signs of the crisis. Specialized institutions are few, understaffed, and filled to capacity, meaning that newborns stay in hospitals with obvious threats for their health and psychological well being, often in the company of ill children.

The problem is compounded by the fact that adoption legislation is outdated and dysfunctional, and has yet to be harmonized with EU norms, while the whole concept of adoption is underdeveloped.
Documents relayed to parliament affirms that many pediatrics hospitals are forced to host toddlers and children for months in venues that are unsuitable for their social and psychological support and development, until a place has been found to foster them.

The majority of abandoned children are born out of wedlock, or their mothers face serious social problems, are addicts, have psychological problems, are disabled, or face serious financial problems.
Last October, Thanasis Paphilis and six more communist party mps tendered a question in parliament calling on the government to take measures in order to face the protracted stay of healthy children in hospitals.
On 7 January, health minister Adonis Georgiadis relayed documents to parliament from the hospitals of the 1sy Health Region that have maternity and/or children's wards.

The Aglaia Kyriakou Children's Hospital hosts children relegated to the care of the state by minors prosecution authorities in Athens and Piraeus, as well as first instance prosecutors from district courts. These children are of various ages, Greek, or foreign nationals that have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment by their parents. The data show that over the last four years numbers of children relegated has increased dramatically from 42 in 2010 to 130 in 2012, while by the end of October 2013, 102 children had been dispatched to the hospital under court orders. The children are housed in the same wards as sick children, while their creative development and care has been undertaken by volunteers of the “Smile of a Child” NGO and the Church of Greece for a few hours a day, after a request from Social Services.
Finding a suitable foster venue is delayed because of saturation in current infrastructure, and when available often takes place without factoring in a child's personal factors, but on the basis of availability and meeting requirements. The hospital staffs its Social Services with just two persons that are literally swamped.

Alexandra General Hospital is a center for the protection of unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock, and as such receives a large number of women in labor facing serious social problems. Many babies remain in its hospice for up to five months because of a number of reasons, such as: waiting times for court orders for a check on family conditions or the transfer of a child to a foster institution, lag times because of the lack of staff, and a lack of foster institutions, especially for toddlers with disabilities.

Elena Venizelou Maternity hospital social services also note that children will continue to accrue and linger in hospitals, which are “unsuitable for their social and psychological development” and proposes specific measures to cope with the problem. The first is a complete reorganization of four four venues (Mitera, Anarotirio at Penteli, Agios Stylianos in Thessaloniki, KAAP in Voula) to immediately host babies with social or medical problems, within a month of birth, at most; a large number of specialists at these units to facilitate adoption procedures; revamping the adoption process and abolition of private adoption processes, and promoting the institution of adoption; supporting the institution of the family.

The hospital's social services believe that if infrastructure is not improved, as proposed, the problem will remain.

The Penteli Children's Hospital hosts Greek and foreign children of various ages, after undergoing a complete evaluation at the hospital's children psychiatry ward, until such time as a suitable venue is found for their relocation. The hospital social services come into daily contact with relevant institutions to expedite their placement, but note that the saturation of existing institutions delays placement.

Prevailing conditions are such that if structural reforms are not undertaken immediately, the increasing rate of abandoned children will swamp even the hospital structures posing severe risks not just for the social and psychological development of the children, but for their health.

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