Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Home, part 2

Justin recalls living with other street children. “I never took drugs, or sniffed glue, but my friends did,” Justin says, his face and voice still blank. “Me, I just drank a lot of alcohol.”

At the Mother and Child Home for unwed mothers

Since 1988, Virlanie Foundation has worked to keep children out of the streets and into safe, loving homes. Founded by Dominique Lemay, a Frenchman, Virlanie is anchored on three different programs: residential, outreach and support. Virlanie runs different homes for the complex needs of the children. A drop-in center houses boys and girls referred by the Research and Social Action Center or the Department of Social Welfare and Development. There the children are clothed, fed, given medical assistance and taught basic hygiene. They are then assessed and sometimes transferred to specialized homes, such as the Caress Home for Boys, where Justin stays, or the Elizabeth Home for Girls which shelters girls who were victims of rape, incest, abuse or neglect. The Jade Home shelters children with developmental disabilities and the Mother and Child Homes house unwed mothers.

Each home is staffed with a house mother and father, as well as a licensed social worker. “It’s important that we provide as normal a household and a family structure as possible” Heloise Monnet, Virlanie staff member says. “In typical childhoods, children have chores as well as time to play.” While the houses resemble typical suburban households from the outside, these also provide an array of services such as psychosocial counseling, cognitive therapy, free formal schooling and programs to prepare the children for independent living.

Part 3, the last of the series, tomorrow.

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