Removing but not leaving: the Russian reality of removing a child from its family as seen through the prism of standards developed in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights

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Author: Natal’ya Kravchuk

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2022-2-38-63

Keywords: rights of the child; the best interests of the child; withdrawal of a child from a family; removal of a child; traditional values; RF Family Code; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; European Court of Human Rights


Withdrawal of a child from its family has been the object of scholars’ and practitioners’ attention for a long time. Russian legislation provides for two procedures for child protection that presuppose his/her separation from parents — the administrative removal of a child in a dangerous situation and the limitation of parental rights, decided by a court. These procedures are linked and, in cases of urgent removal of a child, the limitation and withdrawal of parental rights represents the next step in the process initiated by the child’s removal. As for the reasons for a child’s removal, while urgent administrative action is possible only when a child’s health and life are under direct threat, the list of reasons for removal of a child within the frame of parental rights limitation procedure is open. Critics of the existing practice of removing a child from a family point to ill-considered and unjustified removals and to expanded interpretation of the reasons for it (e.g., poverty, the use of alcohol by parents, or non-traditional parents), as well as inaction in cases of direct threat to the child’s health and life. Violence against a child or his/her parent rarely becomes a reason for removal in spite of the presence of relevant norms in the law. Amendments to the Russian Constitution adopted in 2020 declared that children are the most important priority for the state and guaranteed protection of the family and traditional family values. This resulted in strengthening the discourse of unacceptability of removal of a child from a family. Two law drafts that were introduced in 2020 and presently are being modified aimed at considerably limiting state discretion to interfere a family affairs and prohibiting administrative removal of a child. Standards of regulation of a child’s removal developed by the European Court of Human Rights demonstrate that European countries share the value of fostering a child’s family upbringing and confirm the exceptional nature of a child’s removal from the family. Securing the principle of non-separation of a child from his/her parents, however, should not preclude protection of the child in cases when his/her health and life are in danger. It is possible to reach both aims if the link is cut between the removal of a child and the further process of limitation and withdrawal of parental rights. Issues of temporary removal of a child from the family and of withdrawal of parental rights, which sever family and legal ties between a child and his/her parents, should be considered separately, not formally, and taking into consideration the best interests of the child. In addition, it is necessary to guarantee the possibility for a child to reunite to his/her family after rehabilitation measures have been taken to build up the family’s child-rearing potential.

About the author: Natal’ya Kravchuk – Candidate of Sciences (PhD) in Law, Leading Research Fellow, Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Kravchuk N. (2022) Iz’yat’ nel’zya ostavit’: vzglyad na rossiyskie realii iz’yatiya rebyonka iz sem’i cherez prizmu standartov Evropeyskogo Suda po pravam cheloveka [Removing but not leaving: the Russian reality of removing a child from its family as seen through the prism of standards developed in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 38–63. (In Russian).


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