September 6 2004
Three urban SOS Children's Villages
06/09/2004 - Three SOS Children's Villages with a difference have been planned for Vienna, Berlin and Chicago, the latter of which was opened just last month. Unlike traditional SOS Children's Villages, these projects will be situated in the city and the SOS families will reside in apartment buildings.
The general manager of the Austrian association of SOS Children's Villages, Wilfried Vyslozil, said these urban projects were based on more than 50 years of experience gained by the children's welfare organisation since its 1949 founding, and represented a further development of its model.
The urban SOS Children's Village in Vienna will be completed in 2006, and will provide care for some 20 children in five SOS families. The premises in the Austrian capital will also include two children's living groups, which will function as a crisis centre for some 16 children requiring short-term support, as well as a family counselling centre.
In Berlin, the urban village will come into operation in 2005 and will include homes for three SOS families, as well as a neighbourhood counselling centre and a day-care centre for children. Guenter Kalteis, the general manager of the German SOS-Kinderdorf e.V., said the new centre would provide a wide range of innovative community services.
The opening of the urban village in the United States on 26 August was attended by the Mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, who said: "I'm very proud that we've been able to take an abandoned industrial site and turn it into a real asset to the community, one that offers hope and comfort to our children, creates new affordable housing for our families, and provides a meeting place for residents of the surrounding area. This is exactly the sort of investment government should be making to improve the lives of our residents and the communities in our city."
The 16 family homes of the urban SOS Children's Village in Chicago have been 85 per cent financed by city and state funds. The complex will also include an additional 24 homes, six of which have been completed, that will be sold to moderate-income families through the Chicago Department of Housing. The premises will include, among others, a community centre with a day-care programme for children and an outpatient therapy centre.
The centre in Chicago will pilot two new programmes: the "Fostering Families" and the "Pregnant Teens" programme. The latter will provide foster care and support for up to 16 pregnant or parenting teens. Foster parents will act as mentors and serve as role models to promote the teenagers' successful transition to motherhood, adulthood and independence while providing extra support so they can finish high school. The other programme was designed to enable biological parents to maintain contact to their children although living separated for various reasons. It provides the parents with drug or alcohol rehabilitation if necessary, followed by counselling, parenting skills and job training, during which period the children stay with their SOS parent.