Have you ever been in a situation where everything goes wrong and you don't know what to do anymore? You lose your job or a loved one, your child misbehaves or has trouble learning, your relationship with your partner becomes very complicated...
Have you ever been in a situation where everything goes wrong and you don't know what to do anymore? You lose your job or a loved one, your child misbehaves or has trouble learning, your relationship with your partner becomes very complicated... One small but life-changing problem can quickly lead to a situation where you no longer know how to go on. Maybe you've noticed something about your friends, colleagues or neighbours that makes you worry? If you have been in a similar situation, it is good to know that there are people around you who can help you and your family out of the black hole.
This programme helps families who are going through difficult times, whatever the reasons: their child doesn't want to go to school anymore; one of the partners is violent; the mother has lost her confidence and will to live; the family cannot get out of debt...
The most important thing is to recognise family problems before they get out of hand: for example, a child going to kindergarten or school in dirty clothes, or who is always hungry, sleepy or apathetic. Perhaps you see another child's mother in tears, smell alcohol on her breath or sense in some other way that something is wrong. Step forward and don't be ashamed to ask if everything is okay. People can be eager to accept help when they see that the offer is sincere.
Very often we think that it does not affect us; that it is another family's problem. If we leave troubled families to their own devices and avoid intervening, we might one day arrive at a situation where the family's problems have gotten too big and the only solution is to remove the children.
Typically, families with difficulties are referred to the programme by a local social worker, who proposes to the family that they take part. However, the family can also turn directly to the programme themselves.
Participation is voluntary, but an agreement is entered into with the family. This is necessary for the family to be able to remain in the programme for at least the minimal length of time (six months). Then, with the help of a social worker from the municipality and a support person from the programme, a family assistance plan is drawn up that is implemented by the family with the help of the support worker.
Usually, the SOS support worker visits the family twice a week, but if necessary they may do so more frequently. One meeting takes place at the office, but the other takes place in the home to see how the family interacts and what the living conditions are like.
The support worker's role is to improve things within the family, to identify and work on the strengths of those in trouble, to improve the family's social skills where needed, or to offer the family the help of specialists. In short, the support person is someone the family can trust 100%.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of families with alcohol or drug addictions, mental health problems in both the parent(s) and children, violent behaviour against both parents and children, behavioural disorders and children who have issues with school attendance. Often the family's real problems only emerge once the support person has visited them at home several times and the whole family (or at least part of the family) has started to trust them, and they realise that the support person is not spying on them and that their aim is not to remove the children from the family, but that they actually and wholeheartedly want to help them so that the family can function properly.
The help that families need or expect can be very different. If the mother or father did not have a good childhood, then they cannot provide one to their own children. Many parents need to be taught how to take care of their children: why children need to wash themselves, how to choose weather-appropriate clothes for children, why children need to eat warm meals and why it is important to play with children and educate them according to their age. Mothers often need specific instructions on how to cook, interact with children, look for work and arrange matters with the local municipality, or a reminder that their child needs the right amount of medication on time and has to go to the doctor occasionally.
Many problems require the support of specialists, such as the parents' addictions, mental disorders and children's behavioural issues. If the support person sees that the family needs special support, a psychologist, a family counsellor or a therapist can come in to help.
The support person is someone the family members can trust and share information with that they don't want to share with other members of the family. At the same time, the support person has no obligation to pass on all of this information to e.g. the municipal child protection worker. Sometimes the children themselves contact the support person – for example, if they see that their mother or father is not particularly interested in the support person's visits, but the children clearly sense that it has been helpful to the family and tell the support person things that the mother or father have tried to hide, but which are crucial to actually helping the family.
The SOS Children's Village has been helping families in difficulty for 10 years, and 1100 children and 450 families have received help so far. Today, all of these families are able to raise their children on their own. We know we can provide these children and families with the support they need. Families rediscover the will to live and children remain with their parents.
The Family Strengthening Programme operates in Narva, Sillamäe, Keila, Kohtla-Järve and Lääne-Harju and Põltsamaa municipalities.