Tuesday, 19 September 2017
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AdoptionLilianaThe European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a forced adoption process in Portugal was a breach of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that courts and child protection organisations have an obligation to keep families together, however poor they may be.

The facts behind the case of Soares de Melo vs the Portuguse State shocked the public when seven of Liliana Sallete Soares de Melo’s children were taken away from her and processed for adoption.

This was because the State decided that Sra Melo was poor after the Sintra Child and Youth Protection Commission reported her in 2005 over the conditions she and her ten children were living under.

The State claimed Sra Melo was unemployed and that the father was often absent from the family-home and was hardly what could be described a faithful partner.

Next, a protection agreement was signed between Sra Melo, the father of her children and the Sintra Commission in January 2007 stipulating that the father was to provide financial support for the children and the mother was to provide for their education and health needs, seek employment, and - astoundingly - undergo sterilisation, something she refused to do.

The family remained dogged by poverty and the case was referred from the Sintra Commission to the Institute of Child Protection Proceedings on the grounds that the applicant was neglecting her children and that they were  at risk from the inadequate living conditions.

The State then took the youngest seven children into care, the siblings were separated into different institutions and the parents were given no regular contact .

Liliana Sallete Soares de Melo’s legal representation argued that the State’s actions were wholly disproportionate, the children had not been harmed by either parent, there were strong emotional links with the children, and the State failed to take less intrusive practical steps to improve the family’s financial and living situation before embarking on their drastic course of action.

It also was argued that it was unacceptable to insist on the mother agreeing to sterilisation.

The European Court of Human Rights held that removing children from their parents should only be done when the children are actually at risk and that the State has a positive obligation to keep families together. This family had not been given sufficient support, nor was there sufficient expert evidence supplied as to the children’s physical and emotional well-being to support the State’s decision.

It was suggested that the State could have assisted the family with more practical solutions, better access to running water would have been a good start, and financial aid, before removing the children.

Alternative methods of contraception could have been recommended to the mother, before seeking her sterilisation, as “to impose such a medical procedure on a person without their consent was incompatible with the freedom and dignity of that person.”

The Judge stated the rights and well-being of both the parents and the children are important, and that the “requirements of the Convention are not fulfilled if one ignores the importance of the need for parents and their children to ‘be together.”

Judge Sajó went on to say that the Portuguese State must not act “under cover of alleged paternalistic benevolence” with regards to child welfare and that “decisions should be made harmoniously with consideration to other fundamental rights. In this case, the applicant has been deprived of her parental rights, and the State had only objectively considered the welfare of the children.”

See: http://portugalresident.com/cape-verdian-woman-finally-wins-lonely-battle-to-recover-her-children