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Public Defender, Church Agree on Joint Orphanage Monitoring Visit

Following an hour-long meeting today, the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, and the freshly-appointed head of the Ninotsminda orphanage, Bishop Jakob agreed to jointly conduct a monitoring visit in the church-run foster home sometime during the next week.

“Since the children also have some alienation towards the Public Defender, I want us to monitor them in such a way that there is trust between us,” the Ombudsperson remarked, explaining the reasoning behind the joint monitoring visit.

“I think this visit will defuse the situation,” she went on, adding that the Public Defender’s monitors will afterward also be able to conduct visits at the orphanage. The social services will also continue assessing the needs of the foster children to decide if they will leave the church-run foster home or not, she said.

“We all agree that large foster homes are not appropriate for the children,” the Public Defender also claimed, noting that it is crucial the orphanage with its staff meets international standards and becomes transparent.

In his remarks, Bishop Jakob said the church now plans to convert the orphanage into a daycare center, where he claimed the maximum number of children will “probably” be limited to six per house, in accordance with “world standards.”

Moreover, the freshly-appointed orphanage head said if any child accuses the foster home staff of violence, such an employee will immediately be sacked without even determining the authenticity of the allegations.

In his remarks, Bishop Jakob also accused the media of creating a tense environment around the church-run orphanage, which, he claimed, is negatively affecting the mental well-being of the foster children.

Background: Ninotsminda Orphanage Controversy

The church-run foster home came into the spotlight after representatives of the Public Defender’s Office were twice denied a monitoring visit, triggering public outrage and an emergency temporary measure from the  UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Following the weeks-long controversy, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to remove children with disabilities from the Ninotsminda orphanage – a decision the Orthodox Church plans to appeal. 30 minors, including seven with disabilities, overall have been removed from the foster home to date, according to the Agency for State Care. The Agency also said it continues to monitor the remaining 23 beneficiaries around the clock.

Yesterday, Bishop Jakob also claimed that all but 19 orphanage employees have been sacked from the Ninotsminda orphanage since his appointment as head, citing the decreased number of beneficiaries as the reason. He said over 40 staff members were employed previously.

Read more on the Church-run Ninotsminda Orphanage controversy below:

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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