Amendments to the Law on Orphans' and Custody Courts developed by the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Justice have entered into force in order to ensure the appropriate quality of the work of orphans' and custody courts in all Latvian municipalities and to create a new model of functional supervision of orphans' and custody courts. Functional and institutional changes are based on the principle that the child and the best interests of the child are a priority in all matters.
"I believe that the reform of orphans' and custody courts marks a new era in the protection of children's rights. This will take place in parallel with the strengthening of the capacity of the new orphans' and custody courts and the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children’s Rights. Both must grow at the same time,” says Minister of Welfare Gatis Eglītis.
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns: “The protection of children's interests can be ensured only by strong orphans' and custody courts - municipal institutions with high prestige and high-quality professional performance!”
In order to facilitate decision-making in the best interests of the child, the amendments stipulate that from 1 January 2022, the functional supervision of orphans' and custody courts will be performed by the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children's Rights, which will ensure control in cases where a significant threat to the rights of children is present. State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children's Rights will have the right to instruct the orphans' and custody court to re-evaluate the case and take a new decision, as well as to take specific actions to terminate the inactivity of the orphans' and custody courts.
From now on, specialists for the positions of the employees of orphans' and custody courts will be selected by open competition with no term of office, the regulation specified in the Labour Law will be applicable - the employees of the orphans' and custody courts will be employed on the basis of a contract and will work full-time. It is also planned to establish a qualification commission, which will take care of issues of qualification and further education of the employees of the orphans' and custody courts, the certification of the officials of the orphans' and custody courts, as well as assess whether the employment of previously punished individuals after the deletion or expiry of the criminal record is not contrary to the protection of the rights and interests of the children and individuals under guardianship. The qualification commission will be a collegial institution, which will include members of the Association of the Employees of Orphans’ and Custody Court Employees of Latvia, together with representatives of the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Justice and the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children’s Rights. The qualification commission will start its work on 1 January, 2025, but by then the necessary preparations will have to be made.
Until now, the number of members of the orphans' and custody courts was determined by the local municipality in accordance with the number of residents registered in the administrative territory of the local municipality. In the future, it is planned to take into account other important criteria: the number of children and persons in custody, the number of orphans' and custody court cases, the size of the administrative territory of the municipality.
Although no more than one orphans' and custody court may operate in one municipality in the future, this does not prevent the municipality from establishing several structural units of orphans' and custody court (visitor centers) located in different parts of the administrative territory to ensure accessibility for residents, taking into account the size and population density. At the same time, the orphans' and custody court will be under single management.