In the own-initiative investigation initiated upon the murder of three persons and one child in Leskovac in May 2020, the Protector of Citizens identified numerous omissions in the operation of Social Welfare Centers in Bojnik and Leskovac and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy in the process of protecting children from the family against violence and abuse as the family was on the Centers’ record.
The Protector of Citizens states that the protection of beneficiaries is not achieved in accordance with the professional regulations and standards in the field of family law and social welfare and that the omissions in the work pose a gross violation of child rights and state's commitment to provide children and families with every possible assistance and protection.
The Protector of Citizens requires the centers in Bojnik and Leskovac to take measures without delay to eliminate the identified omissions so that similar mistakes do not occur in the future, but also to determine the personal accountability of expert employees and managers in those Centers.
The Protector of Citizens requests from the competent ministry to ensure that child's exposure to violence against another family member or any other close person is treated as child abuse and neglect, and to examine personal accountability of the employee in the Ministry as he, for three years, did not take any action regarding the Bojnik Center’s request for professional assistance. The Ministry should inform the Protector of Citizens about the undertaken activities no later than 21 days.
During the control of work legality and regularity, the Protector of Citizens established that the competent Social Welfare Centers did not initiate any investigation to protect them against domestic violence, nor to deprive parents from parental authority during nine year-long work with the family. In the same year, the center drafted a Plan of Services for the family and the child, but all until 2015, there can be seen no traces of the work of the guardianship authorities on the protection of children, nor of domestic violence reported.
Moreover, the center in Bojnik did not take any measures even upon learning that children often leave home, precisely because of the violence they suffer, and based on the data submitted to the Protector of Citizens, it could not be determined why the children were leaving foster families and returning to their biological family.
The Protector of Citizens highlights that the guardianship authority was bound to provide adequate protection to children, to relocate them immediately and to ensure that they do not return to the biological family on their own through appropriate monitoring of foster families and intervening when needed. Also, the Center failed to timely initiate proceedings for deprivation of parental authority.
Bearing in mind that the competent ministry monitored the expert work and determined illegalities and irregularities in the work of the guardianship authority and ordered them to rectify the established illegalities, especially in the light of the fact that no recommendation would change the tragedy that occurred, the Protector of Citizens considers it inexpedient to issue recommendations to guardianship authorities due to identified identical omissions in the work on child protection.
Another omission by the Ministry was the fact that it did not extend promptly the expert assistance the Center had sought, nor imposed measures on the Centre as it did not submit the complete case documentation as obliged.
The Protector of Citizens points out that due to incomplete cooperation of the guardianship authorities, there was no timely and adequate exchange of information on the level of risk for victims of violence, abuse and neglect, as well as deeper investigation of the causes of unwanted behavior of children and parental responsibility.