- February 22, 2013
Will the Children’s Home in Pabradė be closed?
The number of children residing in the institution has decreased significantly. This is an intentional social politics of the State, the emphasis is put on encouraging to raise children in family.
The redaction of “Kurier Wileński” received an alarming letter informing about a closure of the Children’s Home in Pabradė which is supposed to happen soon. This is the only Polish institution of that kind (apart from the Children’s Home in Šalčininkai) existing in the Vilnius district municipality. The content of the letter reads as follows:
“The Children’s Home in Pabradė, which up until the 1990s was a boarding-school, has a very rich history connected with the name of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski. He was born in Zalavas village which is situated only 15 kilometres away from Pabradė. While in Pavoverė, the village situated 5 kilometres away from Pabradė, young Pilsudski, a would-be Marshal was baptised. In the remembrance of this event, the baptistery used in the chapel has been preserved.
While being Marshal, Pilsudski established an undertaking under the banner “1000 schools for the Republic of Poland” within the framework of which a school bearing the name of Jozef Pilsudski was built in Pabradė. Up until the World War 2 it was a school with Polish used as the language of teaching.
During the War, a military hospital was located in the edifice of the school. In the late 1940s, the educational function of the school was restored, yet the language of teaching was replaced by Russian until 1960.
In August 1960, the Ministry of Education of Lithuania issued an order requesting the opening of a boarding-school in Pabradė. The languages of teaching were Polish and Russian. Children from different nationalities and also post-war orphans attended the school. This situation continued until 1964 when the institution became exclusively Polish boarding-school and the only one institution of that kind in the whole area of the former USSR.
In 1994, a daughter of Jozef Pilsudski along with his grandchildren came up in the school. They were very glad that in spite of years that had passed, the school still existed, functioned and that Polish language was the language of teaching for pupils.
As far as one can see, during the last couple of decades the school have served children very well. In 2010, the European Union allocated LT 2 100 000 for the renovation of the Children’s Home. The façades of the dormitory and the administrative edifice were renovated, heating system and electrical wiring were replaced, new roofing was installed and many minor renovation works were carried out.
It seemed that the Children’s Home would undergo a revival and would exist happily for a long time. Unfortunately, the Ministry for Social Care and Work had other plans for the institution. Along with the consent to carry out the renovation, it made the decision on gradual liquidation of the Children’s Home. Children were no longer sent to the institution, pedagogical and technical staffs were made redundant. The labour pool does not know why the Ministry made such decision, especially when a part of renovation works had already been done. Everybody knows that there is a large number of children who need temporary or permanent help from the State, especially considering eastern regions of Lithuania.
How is the current situation? We have the edifice of the dormitory partially renovated, constantly decreasing number of children and an uncertain future.
We appeal to our deputies and to people who remember about Jozef Pilsudski, the great son of the Polish nation who cared about Children’s future, for help in saving the Children’s Home in order to give the pupils home that they need.”
We set off to Pabradė to examine the situation. The Children’s Home at the first sight does very good impression. The old, pre-war building of impressive dimensions, beautifully renovated outside, the façade repainted in vivid colours. Behind the high front door we see completely different world – the interior needs renovation – damp patches on ceilings, scratched carpet, time-worn plank flooring. And silence. Kids have lessons in a nearby school at this time.
Joleta Daubaskienė, the Director tells about the pupils and the institution,
“We have 47 kids at the age from 4 to 18 years old. They come from the Švenčionių region and half of them come from the Vilnius district municipality.”
Why does the number of children decrease?
“The decrease of the number of children is considerable. This stems from the intentional social politics of the State, the emphasis is put on raising children in their family homes, not in children’s homes. Therefore, the institutional nursing homes cannot be so big as they were so far, there is a rigid indicator developed by the Ministry for Social Care and Work, which suggests that the number of kids residing in a children’s home cannot exceed 60. There is a rational explanation for that, as the less kids reside in an institution, the more privacy they have and they can also count on their own rooms.”
The Director says that since 2006-2007 she searches for the possibilities of adjusting this huge building to some other purposes. She does projects, collects documentation indispensable for the incorporation of a new concept of functioning of the building.
“Such a big institution does not work out as a children’s home. The present conditions are a relic of the past, of the times when the Children’s Home served as a boarding school. We try to ameliorate the conditions but the storeys and the room layout themselves are not convenient. Currently, three or four kids live in one room, which does not give them any sense of privacy. The interior of the building needs a thorough renovation, which requires massive financial assets. While we were considering the possibilities of a renovation, the employees of the Ministry for Social Care and Work and the local government of the Švenčionių region came to the conclusion that there was no use in renovating the whole institution, as building 3 small houses for children from the scratch would be more rational.”
Is there any point building new houses while the old buildings of the Children’s Home was already renovated with the help of EU funding?
“Despite the fact that heating system and electrical wiring were replaced, new roofing was installed and washing facilities were renovated, the building’s interior still needs a thorough renovation, which requires huge funds. What is more, rooms should be adjusted to the needs of children, the room layout should be well planned,” says Joleta Dubauskienė
From what I get to know, the Children’s Home in Pabradė is one of seven institutions of social care under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Care and Work. There are plans for the future to hand over the range of responsibility to the local government of Švenčionių region because, as the Director says, Children’s Homes have to be subordinated to the local governments.
“In order to provide new services, we need to modify our conditions. Being handed over to the local government, we need to be well organised as no one wants to carry such a big burden. The surface needs to be well managed. We plan to establish a Daily Centre and a Space of activities for the youth („Užimtumo erdvės”). It is widely said that young people do not have a place to meet, activities to be engaged in, possibilities of the realisation of their goals, especially in small cities. We aim at enabling them to do all these things and we already started working on it.”
As the Director says, the general concept of the future Children’s Home activity is being prepared and a part of these plans has been put into effect.
“We realised for example summer trips for children from the families at risk. Another good thing is that even the children who have complete families and loving parents also want to participate in these trips. The ways of organising spare time for children in a small city are very limited. The Eldership with Ms Łucja Tuniewicz supports us in our actions. We encourage children to stay at us during day and we help them in doing homework, the can eat free meals, for the time being, it is our volunteer work. We plan to help others in tough situations i.e. to help mothers and children in case of domestic violence or in case of an unfortunate event or unpredictable situation.”
“I am for preserving the Children’s Home. Our kids have experienced many harmful and painful situations. By staying in a dysfunctional family, they suffer more. Alcoholic parents suffer from a disease and they cannot look after their children. These children feel as orphans in their own home. The Children’s Home must exist, maybe not in the form as it existed before, maybe in the form of Child Centre, but still, it has to exist.”
What do the local government’s authorities think about the Children’s Home in Pabradė?
Antanas Lašinkas, the Social Care Manager for the Švenčionių region reports:
“The EU co-financed the renovation by granting LT 1,800.000. At the turn of February and March 2012, we will organise the contest for the best design works. As soon as a project will be finished, we will issue an invitation to tenders and we hope, we truly want to believe that probably in the next summer, but no later than in the next autumn, the houses will be put into use. Three families, each of them with 8 children, will be given an opportunity to live there. The houses are dedicated to the children from the Švenčionių region as they are supposed to live in their own community, in their own city, close to their families in order to enable parents to visit them. In the old part of the Children’s Home where actually the dormitory is situated, we plan to obtain EU funds to do the renovation and build social houses. We have a huge problem as there are many families waiting for a social house but we have not anything to offer. The administrative rooms of the Children’s Home will be converted into the Centre of Daily Stay for children and adolescence. We also plan to arrange some space for disabled people. The contest initiated and financed by Norwegians relating to the establishment of youth centres will be organised soon. We will also take part in a Norwegian project, we do not know how it is going to work but we count for the support of the Ministry for Social Care and Work. We have made an agreement with the Ministry that we will take on some obligations and the Ministry will mediate in the undertaking and will help us finish it up.”
In response to the whole matter, the Ministry for Social Care and Work convinces that no one has an intention to close the Children’s Home in Pabradė. Lina Burbaitė, the deputy manager on public relations in the Ministry for Social Care and Work explains:
“The Children’s Home in Pabradė is not threatened of closure, at least in upcoming months.”
Lowering the number of children is related to the plans of decreasing the number of places in the Children’s Home, which is motivated by the willingness of creating conditions as much resembling a family as it would be possible. The project also aims at socialising children and satisfying their needs. But in cases where a child from Pabradė or the Švenčionių region is deprived of family care and social care is needed, children are placed in Children’s Home in Pabradė or Švenčionių.
In 2010, over 2.000,000 LT coming from EU funds were devoted to the renovation of the building. Is there any point in building new houses where there is already partially renovated building designated for the Children’s Home?
“We would like to inform that due to the international recommendations on the documents regarding the institutional children’s care and due to the course of institutionalisation, children’s homes would have to be smaller and similar to a family. It is worth underlying that currently, the majority of children’s homes in Lithuania are under the responsibility of either local governments or non-governmental institutions. There are only 7 State-owned children’s homes and the Children’s Home in Pabradė is one of them. For the time being, there are no plans to liquidate it, nor to hand over the responsibility to the local government of the Švenčionių region. The Švenčionių’s government, bearing in mind all the recommendations and aiming at providing the best quality of social care for children deprived of family care, starts to build a new social care institution which will be financed by EU structural funds.”
Tłumaczenie Bartłomiej Cichoń w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Bartłomiej Cichoń within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.