Children Care Foster House of Šakiai - On the Populism Altar

Children Care Foster House of Šakiai – photo from archives


Three years ago Ministry of Social Security and Labour did not object that new care foster house was built in Šakiai. However presently they don‘t want it to be there anymore.

Children Care Foster House of Šakiai that are performing more than ten years received a notification from Ministry of Social Security and Labour (further on-MSSL) that by 2020 children care foster house should be closed, however three years ago MSSL agreed that the community of children care foster should build a new building from EU recourses.


This requirement is based by the initiative of the Ministry to decline institutional children care foster in big houses and to substitute it by the children care in the families. Social enterprise Children Care Foster House of Šakiai started its activity in 2005, the shareholders of the enterprise are Evangelical Lutheran Parish of Šakiai and Evangelical Lutheran Parish Deaconess of Šakiai „Šakių sandora“. The managers of the institution cannot understand why it's better for children to grow in a flat in the apartment house rather than in spacious, separate rooms fitted for families. As it was already mentioned, children's care foster homes of Šakiai their activity started in 2005, then in a former rectory building the first children were housed.


In the autumn of 2014, new buildings were built on a plot belonging to the Lutheran parish next to the old children's care home building. The construction of the new children's care home building costed half a million euros. Non-profit enterprise which mainly survives from charity, support and the state money allocated to children, received funds for the construction from the European Union (EU) funds. MSSL supported the implementation of the project. Four separate housing units of new modern care homes have kitchens, bedrooms and ancillary facilities, according to the family principle, and each houses eight children. In the reconstructed old building there are two more housings. Presently, Children's Foster Home of Šakiai is a home to 53 children that are left without parental care. In a huge plot of land of almost 3 hectares, there is a small park, a pond, playgrounds. The priest Virginijus Kelertas, who is also a director of the Šakiai Children's Care House, noted that children care is a continuation of the old European traditions, because the first children's care house in the Šakiai region was founded in the nineteenth century by Baron Gustavus von Keudellis. Following MSSL initiatives, this tradition may end in a few years. "The Ministry demanded from us by the end of the year to present a plan on how our children care homes will decrease, so that they can be closed by 2020," – said V. Kelertas. When asked to explain the Ministry affirmed that from the year 2020 for the children left without parental care and for the children at social risk long-term or short-term social care, with the exception of guardianship for up to 3 months, will not be available in children's social care homes. This is indicated in the list of social care norms approved by the order of the Minister of Social Security and Labor. Child care home is an institution with more than 10 children.




Virginijus Kelertas: "Who will repay European funds if the children foster home is closed under pressure from the ministry?"


Starting from 2020, long-term or short-term social care can be provided only in the community-based child care homes. The catalogue of social services specifies that community-based child care homes are a social care institutions providing short-term or long-term social care, where the community members are living in the separate rooms - in a house, in a flat - up to 8 children. "Since there are more children in Šakiai Foster Houses, they are not considered community-based, although they are family-type, but they could become them in the future, if such will be the will of founders," explained the officials of the Ministry. V. Kelertas, director of the Šakiai Children's Care House, was surprised at the initiative of the Ministry to close them. "Trends are such that the number of children deprived of parental care is increasing, not reducing; the representatives of the surrounding municipalities are calling us and asking if there are no vacancies" – he assured.


According to V. Kelertas, the MSSL requirements are even stranger because prior to the construction of a new home there were a lot of consultations with the Ministry and all proposals were taken into consideration. Therefore, the building is adapted for children to live in close to family surroundings. In addition, if the children's care home stops working before the five years after the EU-funded project have been implemented, it may be necessary to return the European funds received for the construction of the building. "Who will return them if the foster house is closed under the pressure of the Ministry. Maybe the Ministry itself? "- questioned the director of Šakiai children's care home


According to V. Kelertas, it is difficult to understand and explain why their children's care homes do not correspond to the concept of family-friendly care homes - they are subject to hard-to-understand requirements.


For now, families are not living in apartment buildings, but in a residential home building, although they have separate entrances, and the housing is much larger than the largest apartments in Šakiai multi-family homes. In addition, in one plot of land, no matter what size it is, more than one house cannot stand in which children live. "Now in our families, 4 employees supervise 8 children. According to the proposed concept, families with 6 children could be moved to the apartments, which would be supervised by 6 employees. The salaries for the employees will have to be paid. From what funds will this be done? "- said V. Kelertas.


He was surprised that somehow the parish community is believed to be not a community, and when children grow up in families in a care institution, their socialization does not take place, although the care homes themselves are located near the centre of Šakiai.


Near is a polyclinic, a hospital, a parish church, schools, individual residential houses, which also have children.


To close is not a way


The Mayor of Šakiai district, Edgaras Pilypaitis, asked by the representative of "Lietuvos žinios" newspaper, said that he can understand the aim of the Ministry to ensure that children without parental care would be supported by families as much as possible.


However, so far, there are not so many families in the district that can accommodate all the children left without care. "I think that during this transitional period, such institutions as community child care homes are inevitable. They are needed because there is no place to put children up. Perhaps after some years we will not need children care houses, but meanwhile they are necessary" - said E. Pilypaitis




According to him, there are only three families in the district hosting children. Therefore, according to the head of Šakiai district, it is unlikely that artificial barriers to the activities of community-based child care homes will help to achieve desirable positive result.


It would be better at the state level to facilitate the care of the children in the family as much as possible - not leaving the care taker with no days to rest, with no holidays or possibility to take a sick leave. The Šakiai District Municipality has already taken the initiative to help – the municipality provided funds to families for the purpose of hiring a social worker's assistant. "First the families should be strengthened and then decision regarding the children's care homes taken" E. Pilypaitis stated.



Rimantas Jonas Dagys: "I do not think that the number of building blocks should determine the future of the children care home."


No plots and houses are the most important


Rimantas Jonas Dagys, Chairman of the Committee on Family and Child Welfare of the Parlament that is part of Committee on Social Affairs and Labour, did not conceal the fears about the desire of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour to close Šakiai Children's Foster Home. According to him, although in Lithuania it is desirable to move from institutional childcare to care in families this process should not be seen formally.


"I do not think that the number of buildings on the plot should determine the future of the children care house," the parliamentarian noted. According to him, the desire of the officials to bring life of the children closer to the family’s atmosphere is understandable. However, it is always necessary to take into consideration the realities of the situation, because the main goal is to create conditions for the children to live a normal family life – to teach them to lead the common household. Whether it will be taught in the children care homes or in rented apartments is not so important. "Lithuania is rapidly trying to abandon community child care institutions. After all, we see that the number of children with no parental care is increasing, and families who agree to take care of them are not increasing so quickly. Therefore, at least for now, the children's care homes have not lost their relevance, because municipalities are stating that they have no places to put up children, " - said R. Dagys.



Read more: http://lzinios.lt/lzinios/Gimtasis-krastas/sakiu-vaiku-globos-namai-ant-populizmo-aukuro/253023
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