At the moment we are implementing the program in spite of the fact that there is no direct or project funding from Lithuanian funds. The program is sponsored by the German Foundatin "Kinderdörfer in Lithuania e.V." and it is for youngsters who grew up in foster care houses.
This specific work area exists in “A.C. Patria” since 2007 when workers have started organizing camps and experiential hikes for the youngsters who grew up in foster care houses.
We have noticed that impressions and knowledge gained during these camps and hikes are being forgotten fast by the youngsters. Unfortunately we couldn’t develop these experiences continuously because of the financial hardship in this field. So we have taken an initiative of writing a project which would secure a continuous work with this social group. Today this field is called youth empowerment center “Kitaip” (“Otherwise”). The goal of this center is provide help for the individual who has left or is leaving a foster care house, prepare him/her for the independent life, find an institution of education, job and staying in it. And since the funding from local authorities are over (and not clear if will be renewed), we manage to continue with the program from the support of the foundation "Kinderdörfer in Lithuania e.V.".
Empowerment center is working on three directions: there is a “Consultation Center”, “The half-way home” and "Study Scholarship".
In “Consultation Center” workers are teaching social, employability and maintaining job skills, professional orientation. They also organize camps, experiential hikes other acctivities. Also works on an opportunity to participate in European Voluntary Service programme. This part of the center is located in “A.C. Patria’s” office. Youthful team is waiting for the visitors on an open evenings which are on Mondays and Tuesdays from 2pm to 5pm. On other days we are open for scheduled meetings.
Another area – “The half-way home”. Center has established housing which can host 6 youngsters at a time and they are being prepared for the independent life. In order to assure successful socialization, each youngster has a personalized help plan which is oriented to the specific needs of each youngster. Housing is in an ordinary neighborhood in four rooms apartment. Employees of this center are working there personally with every youngster and helping them in difficult situations. It is very important to us that this housing wouldn’t become just another institution, so we respect this temporary home of youngsters.
The center is providing youngsters with the “Study Scholarship” established by the German Foundation "Kinderdörfer in Lithuania e.V.”. In this scholarship program can participate youngsters (aged 17-18) who have lived or still live in foster care homes and are in education system (secondary or vocational school, university, college, etc.). The main aim of the program is to encourage young people to get an education by providing them with financial support, so very important condition to get this scholarship is to attend the classes. Every participant of the program has a meeting with his leading worker at least once a month, and during these meetings they discuss how is it going in school, planning where will youngsters spend their scholarship, and making some agreements in order to stay in a program. In this way we encourage young people to learn to plan their finances, as well as enable them to acquire the necessary items or needed services, to attend desired activities, save some money for bigger purchase, or to cover education or other expenses. After one year of the program we have noticed, that during these Scholarship planning meetings the trust based relationship is built between workers and youngsters, so quite often other topics arises (not related with studies), so other kind of support is also provided by the workers (emotional support, help to cover the debts, learning to deal with personal relationship with their relatives or friends, etc.)
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We recognize our success in a goal of becoming a center of attraction for youngsters who grew up in the foster care houses. We attract youngsters with warm atmosphere and support. That’s why we consciously avoid giving “scholarships/grants” for participation in our activities (except "Study Scholarship" program). Even in cases when grants are foreseen in the project, we inform about the material benefits only after they make decision to participate. We have achieved that there would always be youngsters who were just “walking by” or came because their friends have recommended it. After establishing a relation based on trust we move further – organized individual work. To carry out this work we have agreements inside of our team, which worker will be responsible for youngster to follow his/hers changes on the way to independence. During this process we trace the work we do and verbalize it inside of the team; what needs to be done in order to assure youngster’s independence and quality life. We give importance to both – individual and team work.
It is also important to name the methods used in work we do in “The half-way home”. In other countries housing where youngsters are being accompanied to independent life is a very popular form of a social work for all social groups which for some reasons are facing difficulties in managing their daily life. In these social groups may be youngsters from troubled families, people who have been in rehab for a long time, disabled and etc. In our case “The half-way home” is devoted for youngster who grew up in the foster care houses. Just like in youth empowerment center “Otherwise”, in housing project each youngster has a worker who is responsible for him/her and works intensively and consistently on individual help plan. Before moving in to the housing youngsters have several meetings with a social worker for a motivational interview. In these meetings youngsters verbalize what kind of social accompanying they are in need of. On arrival to the housing youngster signs a contract in which he/she agrees solving upraising challenges and accepting social worker’s accompanying. Youngster also undertakes to make an effort in order to carry out his/her individual help plan which is based on agreement between a youngster and social worker. Grounds of a relation between a social worker and youngster is mutual respect. If agreements are not being kept, workers are trying to understand the reasons before taking action.
“A.C. Patria’s” team anticipates that this form of a social work will become important in Kaunas social services context and we will be able to continue our services for youngsters after state care.
In work with this particular social group communication with other “A.C. Patria’s” centers is important; youngsters who grew up in foster care houses participate in short term European Voluntary Service programme, visits open youth center “Vartai” (“Gates”) and this way integrate to the “normal” environment.en:aukstyn