"We'll break the old world from the very foundation ...

The Šakiai Lutheran Church and Children Care Foster House


It might be that in three years the Children Foster Care House of Šakiai is closed as the Ministry of Social Security and Labour has decided to restructure everything so that not only large state-owned residential homes with 100 or more homeless children will be closed but also small family like children care houses in the districts will be destroyed as well.


Will not allow accommodation


The discussion about the reform of institutional children care in Lithuania has been going on for several years now. The initiators of the restructuring decided that the children who lost their parental care should live in close to family conditions; there cannot be more than eight children in one place. According to their opinion, it would be best for such a family to be accommodated in a dormitory or privately owned apartment purchased or leased for that purpose, the children in such apartment shall be overseen by social workers. Several large state-owned homes have already been reorganised in Lithuania, but apparently this is not enough. The Ministry of Social Security and Labour has now decided that there should not be even small children care houses for 30-40 children. On May 4, 2017, Linas Kukuraitis, Minister of Social Security and Labour, has made an amended "On the Description of the Social Care Nominee". It stipulates that from the year 2020, children without parental care and social risk will be able to receive long-term / short-term social care only in community child care homes, and the current residential children care houses need to submit plans by January 1, 2018, indicating how they are going to meet this requirement.


A letter from the Ministry of Social Security and Labour with the above mentioned requirement was recently received by Virginijus Kelertas, the director of the Children's Care House of Šakiai. The Children Foster Care house of Šakiai is neither state owned nor municipal, as one month ago, Šakiai District Municipality sold its shareholder's rights. They belong to Lutheran evangelical parishes.


Built for families


The Šakiai Children's Foster Care home was set up more than a decade ago. The Šakiai Lutheran Evangelical Parish decided to rebuild the old rectory and to place children there so that they would have a much better place to live than Šakiai kindergarten "Klevelis". This was done, but over time it was cramped. V. Kelertas decided to build an additional new building: he applied for funding from the EU Structural Funds.


The project was submitted to the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, from which it was proposed to build a non-annex building but a separate building where the children will live in communities, where each will have their own separate rooms with separate entrances. It cost 1 million 983 thousand Litas (the euro was not yet introduced in Lithuania at the moment). All the money was received from EU funds.


A couple of years ago, the children were settled in formed families. The premises were built according to the model applied in Germany. They have separate rooms, a shared lounge, and a small kitchen with possibility to make food by themselves in evenings on during weekends. On weekdays the food is usually made, as children go to school.


According to the project, the purpose of the premises cannot be changed for five years, otherwise the money spent on financing have to be returned. And now the Ministry is forcing all the children to be accommodated in different apartments where they will never have such conditions.


Maintenance costs will increase


The state, more precisely, the Ministry may have enough money to buy a large apartment for eight children, and then to finance not only the caretaker but also the maintenance of the apartment, but non-governmental organizations are not so rich. In the Children Care Foster House of Šakiai every family has five rooms, as in the largest apartment houses there are four rooms, and their area is different. "There must be not only rooms for children, but also a lounge for social workers," said V. Kelertas, because they would not sit on the chair in the kitchen overnight. In addition, six staff will definitely be needed, when now it's enough for four. After all, one social worker should stay at home constantly, because someone has to accompany the child to the doctor, for other matters. Costs will increase, and the municipality will pay for them because they will buy childcare services. "


According to him, when the building project was prepared, the Ministry could warn that it would be better to buy apartments, but they proposed to build a new building. "We would then have bought these apartments," said the director. Now it will cost not only apartments but also their repairs, adaptation for children's life. V. Kelertas does not understand why it is useful to destroy what has already been done. The children care house has a three-hectare plot of land, near the hospital, the Art School. "I asked the Ministry," he said, "Why do you offer the children life that is more difficult? They responded that life is not easy for everyone. Do we need such a government? ". According to him, he was told that there cannot be six families in one plot. One can conclude that one house cannot buy two apartments for children. And what distance should be from one home to another? What if Šakiai apartments are located next to each other, especially on Šauliai, S.Banaitis and J.Basanavičius streets? Šakiai is a small town; it is not Vilnius or Kaunas. Will the Ministry allow apartments to be bought in neighbouring homes? In the former dormitory?


V. Kelertas, the priest, believes that if Lithuanians become a conscious and selfless nation, then children's foster care homes will not be needed at all, and many will want to become patrons. "Now the need for children's care homes is high," he said, "there are no enough caretakers. You should sacrifice ". Unfortunately, there are not many people who want to sacrifice. It is interesting how many children caretakers are among the employees of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the Government, the Parliament or the Presidency?


Do not want to discuss


In Germany the problem was solved the same way as it is now in Lithuania. But the Germans have already changed their minds, and now there have state owned children foster care homes again. "Germany is definitely a social welfare state," said V. Kelertas, "but even they have as many as four children foster care homes in a city of such size as Marijampole. Talking about Lithuania, it should be mentioned, that children foster care houses has been always: not only during Soviet times, but in the interwar Lithuania as well. They will remain in the future, but before that the structure will be destroyed, everything will be torn down, and then we will restart. It hurts me to watch such craziness. I could set something else in that place, and make a bigger profit, but I did everything for the children. "


V. Kelertas has noticed that there is no debate about going the right way. It was only advertised that they had closed several children care houses somewhere and moved the children to the apartments, but how the children live there, do they face problems – nobody knows, no research is available. "I was told by the Ministry officials that they are not open for discussion," said the director, "in case you will not do as we say, we will take away your licenses and close everything." The Ministry can afford to pay one thousand for one child, but non-governmental organizations do not have the funds so high quality cannot be reached”. Putting it in other words - there are children who will never be adopted and they will need their homes.



The most important thing in the plan is "done” mark?


Though each children care home should be looked at individually but apparently for the officials of the Ministry the most important part of the plan is to put mark “done”. And what happens afterwards - it does not matter at all. Thus, in the beginning of the 1990s, kindergartens were eradicated in Lithuania because someone had decided that mothers would not work and raise their children. And now it is raging that there are not enough places in kindergartens, though fertility is decreasing every year.


Children foster care homes will also be needed. Now it has been decided to set up community children care homes and to house children who needs care there, but it is not explained what really these community houses mean, who will be their founders. Community centers? No one explains why some flat in an apartment building is better than four families living in one building. And who will finance these apartments? State Budget? Ministry of Social Security and Labor?


So far, there are almost no people in our district who are willing to become neither ordinary nor patronizing caretakers, although their plans are probably already in the ministry.


Linas Kukuraitis, Minister of Social Security and Labour, visiting a municipality, said: "I repeat to the municipalities how important it is to hear each other, talk, analyse, share experience, initiate discussions and solve problems them together. Cooperation between the Ministry, the municipality and non-governmental organizations is very important. The Ministry only can function in such a permanent dialogue". However, the Ministry clerks are not open for discussion. It is more convenient for them to do things silently. Like it is said in the Internacional hymn that was written in France in the 19th Century: "Let's break the old world from the very foundations ..."



The author: Vaidilutė MILERIENĖ


The source: “Laikraštis Valsčius“