The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić urged Mr. Đorđe Joksimović, whose children have been in a foster family for five years, to endure in implementing the Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child, which he signed for the first time, and together with Kragujevac Social Welfare Center participated in drafting it, since he has the opportunity to step up his parenting competences and restore custody over his children precisely on the grounds of that Plan.
“I urge Mr. Joksimović to fully cooperate with the guardianship authority in Kragujevac for the best interest of the children. Basic Court in Kragujevac reached the decision on partial deprivation of parental rights, and it was confirmed by two higher-instance courts. Therefore, Mr. Joksimović may restore the right to parental care only in the proceedings before the Basic Court in Kragujevac which is ongoing, and on the basis of the expert’s estimate that parenting competencies have been improved” Mr. Pašalić said.
In this light, Mr. Pašalić requested Kragujevac Social Welfare Center to keep providing continuous expert support to Joksimović in building parental competences with the ultimate goal of returning his three children to the primary family.
On 18 January 2021, upon learning from the media that Mr. Joksimović has been trying for years to return his three children under custody and that he could not make contact with the officers in the Center, the Protector of Citizens instigated own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Solidarnost Social Welfare Center in Kragujevac and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy.
On 25 January 2021, Kragujevac SWC submitted to the Protector of Citizens extensive paperwork on the numerous activities regarding stabilization and rehabilitation of children since their removal to the foster family in 2015, as well as the documentation on working with Joksimović family which has been on the Center’s records since 2012. Subsequently, the Center submitted as well the information that Mr. Đorđe Joksimović filed to the Basic Court in Kragujevac the petition for the restoration of parental rights for the first time which the SWC received on 2 March 2021.
In addition, the Center notified the Protector of Citizens that, after the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed him about the filed petition, the Center’s expert team held a meeting on 16 March 2021 with Mr. Joksimović and his attorney, where a Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child was agreed and signed by Joksimović for the first time since 2015, which included improving parenting skills with clearly defined tasks and outcomes with the aim of returning the children to the primary family.
In 2015, the Protector of Citizens conducted an investigation of control after Jokismović contacted him following the children’s urgent removal to a foster family and ascertained at that point that children rights were not harmed. On the grounds of the statement by the competent Ministry, it was ascertained then that the Center made the decision on urgent removal of children to the foster family pursuant to an expert estimate that their life and health have been endangered, and initiated the procedure to deprive both parents of parental rights because the children suffered health, intellectual and developmental harm and neglect.
With regard to the new information in the media that Mr. Joksimović has long ago met all the conditions to return his children, but that he cannot establish contact with the Center’s officials, the Protector of Citizens has launched a new investigation to control the work of the competent authorities in the course of which it was re-determined that all the activities that Center has taken were implemented with a view to protecting the rights and best interests of the children.
Within the new investigation, the Protector of Citizens talked with Mr. Joksimović who acquainted him with his case. Having in mind that he did not submit the promised documentation, the Protector of Citizens has contacted Mr. Joksimović again, and after that his attorneys, who submitted the documentation received on 10 February 2021, where there were no new proofs as compared to the documentation submitted by the Center, nor were there any proofs of initiating court proceedings for the restoration of parental rights.
SWC’s documentation indicates that Đorđe Joksimović’s family has been on their records since April 2012 following the request by the Kragujevac Basic Court, in order to give an opinion in the procedure of entrusting two children born in the common law marriage of Joksimović and their mother, which was terminated that year. The court, through a decision from May 2012 entrusted the children to the mother’s custody, and set the obligation for Joksimović to participate by child support.
After two years of exercising parental rights solely by the mother, in May 2014, the SWC has activated again the work with the family after officially learning that another child has been born to that family in September 2013. At the end of the same year, the mother was provided with the family support service as additional support in caring for her three children.
In March 2015, according to SWC’s reports, the mother and children were placed in the Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, after which the mother was placed in an adult care facility, where she remains. Before being placed in the Shelter, police officers tried that very same night to establish contact with Mr. Joksimović, but they did not find him at home. In the following days, even the closest relatives did not accept to look after children.
Considering that the children’s mother was hospitalized, that it was not possible to get in touch with the children’s father, that the contacted relatives were not ready undertake child care, in March 2015 SWC decided to urgently place three children in a foster family. At that point, Joksimović made a statement that he agreed for the children to be temporarily placed in a foster family, but that he wanted the way of maintaining contacts with them to be arranged.
In mid-2016, Basic Court in Kragujevac reached a decision which partially deprived both parents of their parental rights, except for the right to maintain personal relationship with their children because their children were neglected, their health was endangered and their primary developmental needs were not met. This decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeals in Kragujevac at the end of the same year, as well as the Supreme Court of Cassation in the review procedure two years later.
As the decision on deprivation of parental rights did not arrange the manner of parent – children contacts, SWC has continuously made plans for seeing children which Joksimović was always acquainted with, but he refused to sign any and take a copy for himself. The SWC documentation indicates that Joksimović did not come to see the children on a regular basis, that he was not found in the house during most of the field visits, and that the mother periodically kept in touch with children since children’s removal to a foster family. In the statement, the Center stated that Joksimović was deceiving SWC workers for months that he had filed a petition to regulate personal relations with children and that the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed them that there was no evidence that he had done so, so the Center filed a lawsuit with this court for arranging personal contacts between Đorđe Joksimović and children in March 2020.
SWC has stated that since the court decision on partial deprivation of parental rights became final in 2016, Joksimović did not initiate proceedings with the competent court to restore his parental rights, although the Center instructed him to do so. SWC believes that Joksimović's parenting capacities have not been improved at this point to be able to adequately take care of his three children and meet all their health, social, educational, emotional and developmental needs. The Center also points out that Joksimović submitted three requests to the guardianship authority from 2015 until present for the termination of placement of children in a foster family, of which the last one on 19 January 2021, as well as two requests for children to be moved to a foster family in Kragujevac.