Poverty in Poland has the face of a child. Poverty has the face of a child living especially in a large family. According to the Main Statistics Office, nearly 10 per cent (that is, below the so-called existence minimum) of families with three children live in the extreme poverty and even 26.6 per cent families have four or more children. In total, 2.5 million children use benefits intended for people living in the extreme poverty. It means that every third child lives in poverty and every sixth child – in extreme poverty. Over half a million of children are undernourished, because of poverty 530 children do not go to specialist doctors, and nearly 600 thousand children do not go to dentists (Polish 6-years-olds have one of the highest rate of tooth decay in Europe, and the situation is worse in Vietnam). Nearly 450 children do not have all textbooks because parents do not have money to buy them. Over 70 percent of large families cannot receive tax relief because they have too low income.

The problem of poverty in Poland is not discussed. There are attempts to eliminate poverty from the awareness of the society. Very few people know that because of poverty, Polish children are potentially threatened by separating them from their parents. Therefore, during the recent 64th debate, the Sejm concentrated on the project of novelization of the family and care Code, in order to forbid separating children from their families because of poverty. The project of the Law and Justice party was in the so-called freezer of the marshal for over 3 years. At present, with the support of Solidary Poland party it returned to the debate, due to many tragedies, like the recent one in Suwałki, where a 16-year-old boy, being in the Metropolitan Centre of Emergency Intervention – with his mother and siblings – committed a suicide. He committed suicide after the Family Court in Suwałki had separated him from his mother and younger siblings and changed his place into a childcare facility (the family was moved to the Centre, because they did not have any money to pay for a rented flat).

The project, supported by all clubs and submitted for further works, introduces prohibition of depriving, restricting and suspending the parental authority due to a bad material situation of a family, if parents correctly fulfill their parental duties. The purpose of the amendments is – firstly: protection of children from a hasty separation them from their natural families (among 80 thousand children who are in orphanages, in childcare facilities or in foster families, about 800 of them have been placed there only because of poverty). Secondly: amendments of the act are to make a child a subject (it means that a child should not be degraded to the role of an object in court processes). In every proceeding concerning a child, a child must be listened to and asked about his/her opinion. The novelization introduces a principle of alternating parental care in order to avoid the situation when a child is assigned only to one parent (as long as, certainly, there are no premises restricting parental authority of another parent). Another novelty is a change of divorce proceeding organization, in order not to decide about parental authority during the same case concerning a divorce (it is not permitted that parents are quarreling about their house, car, fridge, washing machine – and also about their child).

Moreover, there suggestion of introducing the preamble to the act that marriage, family and parenthood are particular inter-human relations based on love, family relationships and mutual respect. The above provision should be used in reflection of the judicial authorities and social facilities, so that when giving verdicts concerning family relations they would consider not only parental authority, but also love of parents towards their children and children towards their parents.

Returning to the procedure of taking away children from poor parents, it should be added that it is an expression of callousness of the system. Today a clerk can take a child from parents if he decides it necessary, on the basis of circumstances, documents and other issues, not even leaving a written confirmation for a child. Since 2012, courts and social clerks has used the most drastic method – often unfounded and illegal, that is, they have passed over 1800 children to the so-called foster carers because of poverty. Who cares about what a child feels, who is taken away from his/her grandmother only because overweight has been diagnosed in him/her (a specific case from the Polish court case list)?

Poverty cannot be the only argument to take away children from their parents. Poor families should be helped, not separated (budget of local governments spend 3 milliard zlotys on orphanages and foster families every year; if the money was spent on poor families, there would not be so many tragedies). Poverty cannot be treated as educational disability. Where would it be better for a child if not in his/her family, even if the family is poor, but in which there are normal relationships, when there is love between children and their parents. There cannot be a situation when children are punished for disability of the state.


"Niedziela" 13/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: