The work of SOS Children's Villages in Estonia started in 1992 shortly after the country gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Given the state of the existing welfare system and care homes, SOS Children's Villages moved quickly to provide care and support to families in need. SOS Children's Villages has increasingly reached out to families and provided them with help and support through the recent decades of social transformation.
Increasing prices affect many families
Children who have lost parental care are cared for in SOS families in Juuru (photo: SOS archives).
Juuru is located about 50 kilometres south of the capital city of Tallinn. The area is mostly rural and Juuru is a small town, only around 1,600 people live there. However, it has good infrastructure and the bigger town of Rapla is only 15 kilometres away.
There are few employment possibilities in this area and the poverty and unemployment rates are high. The recent increases in the price of food and other commodities have further affected many families, who were already struggling to make ends meet.
There are large inequalities in child-wellbeing and poverty has had a big impact on the lives of some children. Parents who do not have a job, or are in irregular employment or badly-paid jobs cannot always afford enough food to provide their children with an adequate diet and children suffer from malnutrition. Some food banks help to alleviate the situation, but families are in need of more support.
Young people find it hard to find employment and become independent throughout Estonia, and the Juuru area is no exception. Young men find it especially difficult, partly because they are twice as likely as females to leave school early, but also because of the jobs on offer.
Working with the authorities to provide support
Children who grow up in poverty, in single-headed households or in families with substance or health problems (most notably those associated with HIV/AIDS) are most at risk of losing parental care. These families are often socially isolated and so find it hard to make the connections, and form the relationships, which would help them improve their lives.
Although the state has taken some measures to help children who have lost parental care, our work in the region remains crucial. In 2004, the Estonian government took some initial steps to change the type of care they provided to children who had lost parental care. The policy was to move away from large care institutions to providing care in smaller family homes. This is how SOS Children’s Villages cares for children. We therefore work very closely with local government agencies, ensuring that children have access to quality care and any other help they need, be it psychological or educational support.
What we do in Juuru
We care for children and make it possible for them to grow up feeling loved and protected (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Villages started working in Juuru in 2015.
Care in families: Up to 30 children whose families can no longer take care of them can find a loving home in one of the SOS families. There are five family homes in Juuru, and these are fully integrated into the neighbourhood. The children from the SOS families attend nearby schools together with local children, which helps them become part of the community.
A tailor-made "Child Development Plan" is drawn up in conjunction with the child or young person; it is reviewed periodically and modified according to the changing needs of the child or young person.
Support for young adults: When children grow older they can move to the SOS Children’s Villages programmes for young people in either Tallinn or Keila. Both these towns offer young people a wider range of educational and social activities than Juura itself. We continue to support young people until they are able to live independently. We help them to continue going to school, complete further studies such as vocational training courses or attend university.