Child protection is in the DNA of Apprentis d’Auteuil: founded by a French priest called Abbé Roussel in 1866 to protect errant children on the streets of Paris.
Ever loyal to this founding commitment, the foundation continues both in France and internationally to act for and alongside children who are victims of abandonment, abuse, violence, exploitation, poverty, discrimination and of exclusion.
In danger or at risk
Today in France to run this mission called Child Protection efficiently, the foundation has X number of community-orientated children’s houses (MECS). They receive children and teenagers in danger or at risk which have been sent to them by social services or the juvenile court judge.
MECS address two sizeable objectives:
- Protect minors that cannot live temporarily in their usual environment and where the situation requires a full time or partial stay.
- Guide and assist the family, keeping in mind judicial provisions, so that the family can take responsibility for their parental role beside their children.
Other measures also exist to warn of the risks:
- The AEMO (Educational outreach program) is one legal measure designed to offer support to the young person and their family with the possibility of sheltering as an exception or on a regular basis.
- The AEJ receives children that are having educational difficulties (a lack of limits, instability, and lack of confidence) or learning or behavioural difficulties at school. This measure offers time for reflection and listening with the goal to provide educational landmarks to the child and to return to the reasons behind the stay. Where necessary, this measure prepares the child for a possible reorientation and to prepare the change.
- The Maternal Centres welcome and accommodate pregnant women and isolated mothers in precarious situation, which need material or psychological support with their children under the age of three. Surrounded by a team of professionals (Manager, educators, personal care assistants, psychologists) future mothers are accompanied until the birth of the baby. The aim is to reassure the arrival of their baby into the world, to help them build a life project of independence and to teach them the necessary routines to take care and offer the child a stable emotional framework. For this, they benefit from psychological guidance and are prepared for insertion.
The social centre Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur in Lebanon
Since 2008, Apprentis d’Auteuil has been supporting Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur and their teams in education and training, entertainment activities and parenting. The social centre Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur in Lebanon was opened in 1998 to support the population of the Roueisset–Jdeideh district, an overcrowded, poor and marginalised suburb of Beirut. The centre welcomes anyone wanting to find somewhere peaceful and welcoming, regardless of race or religion.
The centre aims to prevent crime among children roaming the streets, by supporting them in their education. It also seeks to strengthen the family structure, by providing a safe haven for women.
In this community centre, around 200 children and young people and 150 families are homed every year. They learn to live together, respect themselves and respect one another’s differences. They learn to make sense of their lives and are protected from vagrancy and crime.
The Christliches Jugenddorfwerk Deutschlands Gemeinnutziger Ev (CJD) (Christian Youth Village) in Germany
A major actor in the field of child protection, education and training, the CJD takes in over 155,000 young people and adults in over 150 institutions throughout Germany. Apprentis d’Auteuil has been supporting the work of the CJD since its creation in 1993.The CJD offers training by professionals, personal development work and support tailored to individual circumstances. The CJD trials new projects, Start is a trial for those wanting to resume their education, leading to the German equivalent of a high school diploma, for young people in child protection, who have had problems that disrupted their education. The full course is offered over 4 years. The lessons, provided by educators, alternate between theoretical learning and ‘the school of motivation’, with various workshops (painting, carpentry, building, car mechanics, concrete reinforcement).
Living on the streets
This is the case for children where the streets have become their permanent living environment. Without any link with their family, they don’t have any protection, surveillance, or support from responsible adults. It is estimated there are between 100 and 150 million in the world. We, at Apprentis d’Auteuil, and our partners work on caring for the children from the streets until they reach a lasting social and professional insertion. From this cooperation a philosophy, logic, and measures of intervention emerged, but also training for educators of street children.
Apprentis d’Auteuil and its partners have several varieties of actions:
- Reception, education, training and insertion of children from the streets.
- Improving technical skills of personnel by the training body.
- Implementation of advocacy activities in order to alert the authorities and the public of children’s rights.
France: Life in a MECS
Opened in 2010 the MECS Charles de Foucauld (north-west) welcomes 31 children and youth aged between 6-21 years old placed there by social services. In these "homes", we receive siblings (two groups of nine) young girls (five) in great difficulty and also provide an educational service for eight young people between 11 and 21 years of age who have been excluded from the educational system and live in foster families or other establishments. Based on a personalized process, the following is offered : schooling, job exploration, work on social skills, etc...
"The diversity and the flexibility of the ways in which we manage allow us to adjust as closely as possible our actions to the needs of youth and families," highlights the Director. "For example, we have a family apartment which innovates in accommodating parents and allows young people to gradually become independent. Finally, we have voluntary relay families, our “families of heart," who receive children during certain weekends which gives them the opportunity to discover a family life, different from the one they have known up until now."
Caring for children internationally: the example of the Qosqo Maki organisation
Qosqo Maki enables underage boys and girls working and living on the street in Cuzco, Peru, to develop a life project with adult supervision. As part of learning to live a different life, the organisation provides boys and girls with a dormitory (dormitorio infantil). Homeless children and teenagers can sleep there at ease and in the warmth, and learn, with adult supervision, how to manage the premises. At meetings, they undertake to respect established house rules and to take on responsibilities (making breakfast and dinners, for example) and to manage a joint kitty for personal care. Every Tuesday at 9 pm, young people and adults chat about the week gone by, the problems they faced and progress made. Together they work through any errors, if need be, bring up any unfairness and discuss the news.
"We educate each other, as equals and friends", enthuses Ricardo Yasmani, a young man homed by Qosqo Maki.