The Železná studienka detský domov (orphanage) for infants younger than three years of age in Bratislava has been housing orphans since 1952. But director Mária Krausová, who has run the orphanage for nine years, says that she doesn't want them.
"This is not a home for children," she said. "We want them for as few days as possible. We want them to have a real home."
Unfortunately, that dream is not always realised. Valéria Popeláková, the director of an office of the Centre for Counselling and Psychological Services (CCPS) in downtown Bratislava, said that every year there are more children needing homes in Slovakia than potential parents wanting to adopt a child.
For many of the children, finding a family is made more difficult because of the illnesses or handicaps they suffered from negligence by their biological parents. At the Bratislava orphanage, 35 of the current 85 children are either sick or disabled; Saška has a brain disorder and Tomáš is blind, both as a result of prenatal drug-use.
Further frustrating the efforts of aid workers like Krausová and Popeláková is the fact that many foreigners who are interested in adopting orphans don't know where to go, who to talk to or how to start.
"Some parents have this idea about adopting a perfect child," Krausová said. "But they can't just come to the orphanage, take a look at what we have and then choose one."
Although many foreigners have done just that, an orphanage is the wrong place to start looking for a child to adopt - orphanage directors have no authority to grant viewing opportunities.
Interested foreigners should go to the Popeláková's CCPS Centre (Bezručova 8, tel - 07/52 96 37 41) and fill out an adoption application which will then be sent to regional Slovak offices. Only then will parents be granted permission to meet a child.
Adopting a child in Slovakia, unlike in many western countries, costs nothing. Once an orphan is adopted by a family, there is a three month trial period during which the parents must make a final decision and social workers must give final approval.
Only foreigners with established long-term Slovak residency are eligible to adopt, although Krausová said that exceptions are commonly made. If foreigners decide to repatriate with their adopted child, Popeláková said that most countries, with the exception of Australia, grant the Slovak child citizenship.
Adoption may soon become easier for foreigners. Krausová said that the government is currently discussing legislation that would ease or end the residency requirement. She said she expected the law to be passed by 2001.
13. Dec 1999 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri