Birth Registration: Citizenship can be acquired either by birth in the country or from one’s parents. The government registered all births promptly.
Child Abuse: Child abuse continued to be a significant problem. The Department of Statistics stated that 2,474 children allegedly suffered violence in 2016. The children’s rights ombudsman reported receiving 201 complaints in the first eight months of the year.
On January 24, a four-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mother and her partner in the town of Kedainiai. Following the incident, on February 14 parliament met in a special session devoted to the protection of children’s rights. During the session it banned all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment.
The ombudsman for children’s rights reported that government efforts to combat child abuse and aid abused children were ineffective. In the first eight months of the year, Child Line (a hotline for children and youth) received 235,471 telephone calls from children but, because of limited human and financial resources, could respond to only 121,259 calls. Child Line also answered 838 letters from children, whose concerns ranged from relations with their parents and friends to family violence and sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of children remained a problem despite prison sentences of up to 13 years for the crime. In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 47 cases of child rape and 135 cases involving other forms of child sexual abuse. The government operated a children’s support center to provide special care for children who suffered from violence, including sexual violence. It also operated a center in Vilnius to provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance to sexually abused children and their families.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriages for girls and boys is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Individuals involving a child in pornographic events or using a child in the production of pornographic material are subject to imprisonment for up to five years. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights reported receiving four complaints of alleged sexual exploitation of children. According to the Ministry of the Interior, officials opened five criminal cases involving child pornography during the first eight months of the year. The age of consent is 16.
Displaced Children: Street children were widely scattered among the country’s cities. Most were runaways or from dysfunctional families. According to the Statistics Department, 2,209 children were missing in 2016.
A number of free, government-sponsored programs assisted displaced children. Government bodies and numerous NGOs administered 60 agencies protecting children’s rights to aid vulnerable children.
Institutionalized Children: As of January 1, temporary guardianship of a child (foster care) may not last longer than 12 months, and guardianship of a child under three years of age may take place in a child care institution only in exceptional cases and for no longer than three months.
In 2016 approximately 3,000 orphans and other children in need of care resided in the country’s 95 orphanages, including 17 operated by NGOs and 54 large-family foster homes. There were five boarding schools for children with disabilities. As of September 1, the children’s rights ombudsman received seven complaints and started three investigations regarding children’s rights violations in these institutions.
Under the law children under the age of three are sent to guardianship institutions only in exceptional cases when they need specialized health care, nursing, or when the family or municipality cannot provide a child with proper care. To speed up the adoption process, the law also limits a child’s stay in an orphanage to 12 months as opposed to the longstanding pattern of temporary care in orphanages lasting five years or longer, representing one of the main obstacles to children’s adoption by new families.
NGOs, child welfare experts, and psychologists contended that the country’s orphanages were detrimental to child development and led to a wide range of social problems, such as delinquency, social exclusion, and vulnerability to trafficking and prostitution. During the year courts issued decisions on abuse allegations in two institutions. The court sentenced the former director of the Viesvile orphanage to three years and 10 months, with a postponement for three years for sexually exploiting boys in his care. The court sentenced four men from the Sveksna residential institution to from two to 4.5 years in prison for sex with minors.
The Ministry of Social Security and Labor began the reorganization of institutional care, financed with 77.4 million euros ($92.3 million) until 2020. As part of this process, the ministry reorganized or closed childcare homes in eight municipalities and provided funding to increase the number of foster parents and improve services to children and families.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.