SOS Children's Villages first started working in Lithuania in 1991, after the country gained independence from the former USSR. SOS Children's Villages has responded to the changing needs of children, young people and families in Lithuania, adapting its work in order to support children at risk.
The capital city is home to many families living on the poverty threshold
Learning together (photo: M. Mägi)
SOS Children's Village Vilnius is located in Virsuliskes, a suburb of Vilnius about three kilometres north of the city centre. Vilnius is in the south-eastern part of the country and home to around 560,000 people. The population is diverse: 58 per cent are Lithuanians and the main minorities are Poles (19 per cent) and Russians (14 per cent).
As the capital, Vilnius is the political, cultural and economic centre of the country. The city and its surrounding areas produce a large proportion of the country's gross domestic product. Different businesses, such as food production and processing, as well as chemical and timber industries provide the local population with employment and income. The relative prosperity of the region has attracted migration from other, more deprived areas of Lithuania.
The recent economic crisis and the increase in prices have affected many families. As a result, the number of children under 17 who are at risk of poverty has remained high although assistance from the state has kept many out of this category. The children who end up in the care of SOS Children's Villages often come from troubled backgrounds. In some cases the parents abuse alcohol or drugs, neglect their children or even beat them. In other cases the parents cannot look after their children for economic reasons - they have lost their jobs, have no adequate housing or have moved abroad to search for work.
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 city 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 help or educational support. In addition, the support offered to families and children who have lost parental care, the provision of day-care so parents can go to work, and the tailored support to young people embarking on an independent life have formed the core of our organisation's activities in the area.
What we do in Vilnius
Happy to have a loving home (photo: M. Mägi)
Strengthening families: SOS Children's Villages aims to strengthen local families in the Vilnius and Alytus districts by offering access to essential education, nutritional and health services. Working together with local authorities and other agencies, we support families who are at risk of abandoning their children. We advise on parenting skills and income generation. Furthermore we strengthen communities so that vulnerable members have someone to turn to in times of need. We also provide leisure activities which bring people from the neighbourhood together.
Care in families: Children whose families can no longer take care of them can find a loving home in an SOS family. The children from the SOS families attend nearby schools together with local children, which helps them become part of the community.
We also provide short-term care for children who need urgent care. We work with the families of origin so that the children can return to live with them. If this is not possible, the children stay with us until a permanent care solution is found.
Supporting young people: When children are ready to leave their families they can move to the SOS Youth Programme. 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 professionals.