Durban - They have had no contact with their parents whatsoever in nine years, and now four children who were removed from their Russian parents amid allegations of sexual exploitation want to sever all ties.
In an application in the Durban High Court on Thursday, advocate André Stokes – who has been appointed as curator for the four children, now 17, 11, 10 and eight – asked for an order terminating or suspending the couple’s parental responsibilities and rights.
If granted, it will mean that they can no longer stand in the way of attempts by the children’s foster parents to adopt them.
“They deserve finality and permanency after the drawn-out legal battles during the past nine years,” said Stokes in an affidavit before Judge Anton van Zyl.
“It is time for the adoption hearing to commence. The parents will not be stopped from participating in this but this application is aimed at preventing a situation where, through the unreasonable refusal to consent, they can frustrate the process.
“It also stops them putting their needs ahead of their children.”
The parents were arrested in August 2003 and the children – the youngest being only six days old – were taken into care before being placed with two foster families where they have been ever since.
After a high-profile trial, which centred on photographs of the couple naked and performing indecent acts with some of the children, the couple were convicted on various charges and sentenced to jail.
However, their convictions and sentences were set aside on appeal in June 2006 because the photographs were found to have been inadmissible as evidence.
Stokes said the couple had not denied the contents of the photographs, but had “rather sought to justify them according to religious and cultural practices”.
He said numerous experts had evaluated the children about whether or not contact and reunification with their parents was in their best interests. It seemed that the children had no interest in seeing their parents and, in fact, the eldest had expressed anger that they were not in jail.
The couple had “used every legal angle at their disposal to regain their children”, Stokes said.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the same vigour and enthusiasm employed in the mounting of the legal challenges was dispensed with when it came to ensuring they receive the necessary psychotherapy in order to rectify their past behaviour towards their children.”
A psychologist who interviewed the parents said both felt they had been judged unfairly – in accordance with SA norms – whereas their behaviour, based on pagan practices, would have been considered acceptable in Russia.
Stokes said that throughout the past nine years the couple had known that if they wanted to see their children they needed to have intense treatment. But this had not occurred. In the meantime, the children’s constitutional rights were being violated.
“They are all crying out for an urgent resolution to this situation,” he said. “They all want to remain with their respective foster families, and with each day that passes their rights are violated.”
However, the parents are putting up a fight. They are opposing the application and have said they will lodge a counter application, again insisting on reunification.
The matter will be back in court in late August.