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 of basic commodities affect many families
An SOS family at home (photo: M. Mägi).
Keila is a small town situated near the capital city of Tallinn, in north-western Estonia. According to the 2011 census, there are some 10,000 people living here. SOS Children's Village Keila is situated about three kilometres from the city centre, in a residential area with easy access to schools, shops and a hospital.
The recent global economic crisis and the increase in prices of food and other basic commodities have affected many families. Parents who do not have a job or who are in irregular and badly-paid employment struggle to care for their children. Other children who are at risk of losing parental care include those who grow up in single-headed families or in households with substance abuse or health problems. Many of these children are malnourished, and the lack of the right food, in combination with the other aforementioned difficulties, often means that the children's physical and mental development is delayed or they experience behavioural difficulties. In some cases children do not go to school because parents do not have enough money to cover the cost of the school uniform or learning materials. They are most likely to not attend school in winter, when parents cannot afford to send them due to the expense of snow-appropriate coats and shoes. Such families are often also socially isolated and therefore find it hard to make the connections which would help them improve their lives.
Although such families receive help from the state, the assistance does not make families self-sufficient. For this reason our SOS Family Strengthening Programme is particularly important since it enables families to become independent.
Working with the authorities to provide support
Although the state has taken some measures to help children who have lost parental care, our work in the region remains as crucial today as it was when we started working in the area. SOS Children's Villages works very closely with local government agencies, ensuring that children have access to the help they need, be it psychological or educational support.
What we do in Keila
Children playing happily! (photo: M. Mägi).
Family strengthening: We provide support to families who are at risk of breaking down. We work directly with families and communities so that they can protect and look after their children. Many of these families are experiencing domestic violence and need specific counselling and support.
Care in families: Children whose families can no longer take care of them can find a loving home in one of the SOS families. 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. There are 12 family homes in Keila and the children from the SOS families attend nearby schools together with local children, which helps them become part of the community.
Support for young adults: When children are ready to leave their families they can join the SOS Youth Programmes in either Keila or in nearby Tallinn. The young people live in special houses during their vocational training or further education and can prepare for an independent life under the guidance of care professionals.
Caring for unaccompanied refugee children: We provide care, accommodation and legal support for unaccompanied refugee children and young people.