The Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) jointly with the Social Service Agency ran a training course – Child Care, Deinstitutionalization and Current Legislation – for judges in Telavi (Rcheuli Hotel) on February 26-27.
For two days, 15 judges (the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, Tbilisi City Court and districts courts) had an opportunity to consider jointly with the Social Service Agency the issues like adoption and putting children up for adoption, social reforms in Georgia, deinstitutionalization and modern approaches to bringing up a child.
The training course was run by employees of the Legal and Child Care Departments of the Social Service Agency of Georgia, Moris Tsamalashvili, the Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia and experts of the social sphere.
During the workshop the judges had an opportunity to obtain unbiased information on issues they find interesting directly from the top officials of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs and the Social Service Agency. They focused on the work of the Social Service Agency (as the body providing care and custody), the prevention of putting children up for adoption and those legislative issues that should be improved.
“One should emphasize the large scale of the workshop and diversity of considered issues. Moreover, the agency and courts met for the first time in a workshop environment. The two days of the workshop, at which a number of relevant issues were considered, proved productive”, said Bidzina Kharazishvili, head of the Legal Case Management Division of the Social Service Agency.
The first day of the above-mentioned workshop was dedicated to the theoretical course on the modern systems of social protection and their development. Parallels were drawn with the current environment in Georgia and characteristic features. The second half of the day focused on the child care reform. The exhaustive information on child care services available in Georgia were provided, which drew a lot of interest of judges. The judges had an opportunity to learn about alternative child care services and see respective photo and video materials.
“I liked that we started by so called lectures. Dato Gzirishvili managed very skillfully to prepare grounds for discussions on issues related to social protection, child protection and child wellbeing. During the first part, judges kind of saw existing problems through our eyes, through the eyes of the civil sector. The beginning was strengthened by Bidzina Kharazishvili’s (head of the Legal Case Management Division of the Social Service Agency) presentation. He presented key directions of the child welfare policy first and only after that moved to the concrete issues related to the involvement of the court system, or more precisely of judges”, said Andro Dadiani, the director of the Every Child organization.
Discussion over legal issues prevailed during the second day of the workshop, because it addressed the norms regulating the most important activities of the Social Service Agency (adoption and guardianship/custody over a child).
Active involvement of participants in the discussions, interesting questions asked by them and genuine desire for cooperation pointed to their interest in the questions addressed by the workshop. At the same time, they made remarks and provided advice, based on which concrete measures have been planned.
The workshop ended by the summery presentation of the Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Welfare, and the director of the Social Service Agency (Moris Tsamalashvili). The presentation was followed by debates between the judges, the civil sector and employees of the Social Service Agency.
The judges and employees of the Social Service Agency emphasized for a number of times the need for and positive effects of such kind of meetings. Debates and discussions continued even during the breaks. Forms and ways of future cooperation were negotiated.
“Of course, building personal relationships and making the relationships closer, which is an essential precondition for future productive cooperation and which was promoted by this two-day workshop, should be evaluated positively. The meeting has showed that child care should be priority and similarly important for both the civil sector and the government. Judges proved more qualified than I had expected. The civil sector does its best not to put children up for adoption, while the Social Service Agency works most diligently to protect children’s rights,” said the meeting organizer, Nino Kiknadze, head of the OSGF Law, Media and Health Initiative.
“On the way to Telavi I thought how these two days would go. I had never met with judges before. I had heard only bad things about court and its employees. I thought I would have found very difficult to explain to them the genuine interests of a child. I also feared I would have found it hard to persuade them that their interests had priority over others.
I was extremely happy to hear comments and questions of judges. The thoughts I had on the way to Telavi faded away. Their discussions did not deviate from the genuine interests of a child. I tried to make a comment for several times, but my words were uttered by some other judge and the only thing I had to do was to nod.
To put it briefly, I felt rather positive when I came back. I would like now to expand our limited relationships with the court system and move to regular cooperation with them. I see that the judges would like the same”, says Andro Dadiani.