Young people leaving SOS Children’s Villages

Engaging young people in
taking decisions that affect their lives


Pavel Kulikov, an adviser to the committee of SOS Children’s
Villages on ways of raising children within a family setting, spoke about his
experiences during an international conference held at the Public Chamber of
the Russian Federation (RF). At the moment there are five SOS children’s
villages in Russia (at Tomilino outside Moscow, Pushkin outside St Petersburg,
Lavrovo in the Orlov region, Kandalaksha in the Murmansk region and Pskov).
Preparations are in hand to open a children’s village in Vololgda. There are a
foster mother and seven/eight children to a house in these villages.


In contrast to those who have been in children’s homes and have had
no special preparation for independent living, young people who have lived in
an SOS children’s village transfer to a youth house where instructor/mentors
help them with educational issues, employment and dealing with various
documents including applications for housing. Mr Kulikov explained that an SOS
youth house usually consists of contiguous units in an apartment block or a
house. The teenagers live in the youth house for four years and are educated at
a college, technical college or institution of higher education. At first each
teenager is assigned an instructor/mentor to help them, although they are
expected to clean and tidy up for
themselves. Mr Kulikov said: ‘The teenagers not only acquire life skills like refraining
from making a row after 23.00 hrs or quarrelling in the corridor
but also learn to study and to take
responsibility for managing their own money. Each of them is told what they may
spend on items like clothes, stationery, school necessities. However, each may
make their own choices of items like seasonal wear. They must account for all
their expenditure.’ In concert with their instructor, the teenagers compose an
individual development plan which will include possible places where they may
pursue their studies, items of expenditure and so on.


When the young people reach the age of
nineteen, the village recommends that they embark on a programme of
semi-independent living. This results in a smooth transition to fully independent
living once they have completed their professional training. The young people
move out to a permanent address which may be private or municipally owned. Then
again they might rent an apartment with the aid of partial financial help from
the village. The programme has been devised with an eye to following the
progress of the young people until they are 23. Currently there are 40
participants in the semi-independent living programme. To qualify for the
programme, the young people must graduate from college and find work providing
them with a steady income or be in higher education. The student and their
instructor must enter into a tripartite agreement with the village for a year
in the first instance with the possibility of extension. The financial help
decreases from year to year with the students meeting 50% of their own costs
themselves in the last year of the programme. Personnel development adviser to
the Russian committee of SOS Children’s Villages, Elena Orlov, said that the
ability of the young people to play an active part in taking important life
decisions depended to a great extent on the professional competence of the
foster parents or the instructors in the institution. She
stressed that it was a caring family circle
that could facilitate the fullest development of a teenager’s potential.

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