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Mother goes to court after officials threaten to take child away

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Leanid Sudalenka and Natallya Belaya in court. Photo: TUT.by

Homel's Saviecki District Court on 6 July opened the hearing of an unusual case. Natallya Belaya, mother of a 6-year-old girl, is suing social care officials for threatening to put her on record for being unemployed for two weeks. The defendants are Homel's kindergarten No 160 and the district department of education.

The indignant woman demands compensation of moral damages in amount of 1000 BYN (roughly $500), TUT.by reports. Natallya claims she and her daughter had to suffer greatly because of the treatment by the officials. The workers of the education department insulted her, interfered in her private life and made her private information public, she said.

In June, Natallya Belaya received a letter from Kindergarten No 160 informing the woman that because she was unemployed her family was in the state of an extraordinary life situation and required special attention from pedagogues. Natallya was warned that the kindergarten administration ‘would have to put her on the list of disadvantaged families’ if she did not get a job.

The letter was dated on 5 June. By that time, Natallya had been unemployed for a slightly more than two weeks.

The indignant and frightened woman told journalists about the situation. Representatives of the department of education responded to the publication of her complaints in the local newspapers. They learned that the woman had received the job of a hospital attendant on 20 May. “Who was looking after the child when the mother was at work? The girl was absent from the kindergarten,” the officials asked. They were also interested in the source of income that allowed the unemployed Homiel resident to support herself and her daughter.

These articles were the last straw, the woman said. She went to court with the help of prominent human rights defender and lawyer Leanid Sukalenka. The preliminary hearing took place on 6 July.

Natallya Belaya. Photo: TUT.by

"The letter sent by the defendants [social care officials and the kindergarten] was written in the form of blackmail and contained threats. This is interference into my family’s private life," Natallya said.

The compensation of moral damages is not the main thing she is struggling for, the woman stressed.

“I am suing them so that they leave my family alone and stop interfering into our private life. I want to be able to keep bringing up my daughter and to work where I find it convenient for me to work,” the woman explained. “It has been happening for many months and I have been under immense pressure. Those were the awful days for my family.”

The defendants (the department of education) have not agreed to the demands. The kindergarten did not interfere into the family’s private life out of curiosity – it was a social investigation, they insist. This work was conducted on the basis of legal acts obligating educational institutions to reveal unhappy families at the early stages.