SOS Children
Austria – December 24 2017

Boosting opportunities for children and the community

Growing up in a city or town can offer children a bright future – or a life of poverty and social exclusion. In Vienna, SOS Children’s Villages works to ensure its services are fully integrated, meaning it can effectively meet the needs of the local community in addition to those of the children and young people receiving support.

The SOS Children’s Village in Vienna – a city of 1.8 million people – is an urban village fully integrated into the city. This SOS Children’s Village is made up of around 15 apartments that are situated in the local community, alongside apartments with other families. Four of these apartments are close together, near the SOS Children’s Villages “Familienrathaus” [family town hall], while the other apartments are spread throughout the city.

“The urban setting is based primarily on the fact that we wanted to live like most families in Vienna, right next door to other families in residential neighbourhoods,” explained Erwin Rossman, Programme Manager at the SOS Children’s Village Vienna. “The children can grow up in their SOS families just like many other children,” he added.  

This setup allows the SOS Children’s Village to provide services that are tailored to the local context as well as work to ensure beneficiaries of SOS programmes are fully integrated into the local community – meaning the children, young people and families can take full advantage of the urban setting as well as the opportunities and infrastructure it provides.

“I would say that the urban setting is a good thing. I grew up in the city myself, in Vienna, and I think it is good for things to do,” said Helga Kreuzel, an SOS mother at the SOS Children’s Village Vienna. Being in the city also makes it easier for children from SOS families to interact with children from the community as well as attend the same kindergartens and schools. There are additional advantages for young people preparing for independence, as they can move into a different apartment in the neighbourhood or another district rather than feeling they are leaving the SOS Children’s Village.

Living in the same city means these SOS parents and families can support each other in daily life, such as providing support with childcare where needed, inviting each other to events and going on excursions together at weekends. Every four to six months, the SOS parents and educators meet to share their experiences  and to discuss any challenges they are facing as well as plan for upcoming events. This not only gives them chance to share and learn from each other, it also strengthens relationships between the SOS parents and educators as well as the SOS community in Vienna as a whole.

In addition, the SOS Children’s Village Vienna reaches children and families who live in difficult circumstances through a social centre and clinic which are open to the community. The community is also supported through mobile care services and an outpatient clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry, meaning the programme can help to prevent family breakdown.