Analysis of the care system of children in conflict with the law in Hungary

From the 1st of July, 2013 the age of criminal responsibility has been reduced from 14 to 12 years in case of serious crimes (manslaughter, assault, robbery and despoilment) and if the child is able to assess the consequences of his/her actions, but no methodology has been defined to measure the “discretion capability” of the child.

The punitive approach is spreading in Hungary instead of extending diversion, restorative justice, tertiary prevention and other services (eg. treatment foster care):


- Despite the legal possibility that has been in place since 2006, restorative justice has been implemented in a low number of cases.


- According to the proposal to modificate the Civil Code the mediation would be obligatory, not voluntary in custody and family law cases.


- The place of rehabilitation of juvenile offenders are institutions not family- or community-based services.


- The latest modification[1] of the Child Protection Law[2] forbade to place children under 12 to child protection institutions, but there are not enough foster parents available, the motivation system is insufficient. Besides deinstitutionalisation the main purpose of the change was to shift the emphasis to provide better and quality care for older, disabled and troubled (eg. offenders) children in institutional care, but children’s homes are not the best options for the mentioned groups of children either, alternatives should be developed and recognised by the decision makers.


- From 2014 the foster care system will be reorganized and redefined. Foster parents should complete a new training (400 or 500 hours), and a new „special legal employment status” will be introduced for them. Professional guradians will be the legal representatives of every children in alternative care instead of the foster parents.


There are two separate systems dealing with young offenders in Hungary: the child protection system (if the child is under 14 or 12) and the juvenile justice system (if the child is older). Different ministries are responsible for the two systems, different approaches are predominant, different legislations are in force, etc.: the care system is fragmented and divided into two parts without real connections and effective cooperation between them.


Due to the Hungarian legislation (see next chapter) juvenile offenders can not be placed with foster parents, treatment foster care is only a possibility for children under 14 or 12 in the framework of child protection system! Nevertheless to develop, use and assess treatment foster care in child protection can be an important lesson to convince policy makers to expand its use in juvenile justice system as well.


From next year the foster care and the training systems will be reorganized, but some of the details are not known yet.


Main issues:

-          The rights of foster carers will be reduced (guardianship) from 2014;

-          The hungarian petty offences law allows custody of children for petty offences;

-          Lack of interconnections between child protection and juvenile justice systems;

-          To provide intensive fostering is only possible for children under 14 (or 12) due to legislation;

-          Children under 12 can not be placed to children’s home but to foster parents;

-          The foster care system is undifferentiated;

-          Children who live in alternative care are more likely to become perpetrators than other children;

-          The juvenile justice system is punitive not corrective;

-          Lack of output measurement, follow-up researches after the placements;

-          The age of criminal responsibility has been reduced, but treatment foster care scheme or other alternatives was not even mentioned during the reform process;

-          Due to data protection we lack of information of adult offenders’ previous (juvenile) crimes and information about minority background of children/juveniles in the system;

-          Children perpetrators if crimes/offenses “virtually disappear” in the statistics, no reliable datas available;

-          Children’ homes and child welfare services have limited information of the lives of children’s in their care the provided prevention/rehabilitaiton is not well-targeted.


[1] Law No. CXCII of 2012

[2] Act No. XXXI of 1997 on the protection of children and the administration of guardianship affairs


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