SOS Children's Village Vologda SOS Children's Villages has been working in Vologda since 2008 when we started providing support to families so that they could stay together. In 2011, and with the backing of the local authorities, we expanded our activities to include alternative care for children who could no longer live with their families. An increasing number of children losing parental care An SOS family in their new home (photo: S. Andrianova) Vologda is located in north-western Russia, about 500 kilometres from Moscow. The city is the economic centre of the region and has approximately 300,000 inhabitants. The province is rich in natural resources and the food industry is well established, and the region is particularly well known for its cheese and butter. An increasing number of people are moving to the urban areas of the region, in search of work as it becomes harder to make a living from agriculture. However, the new arrivals do not always find employment - women and young people find it hardest to get a job. When they do find a job they are mostly low paid or in sectors with a dangerous working environment. The number of children losing parental care is increasing in the region. The majority of these children have biological parents who cannot care for them due to socio-economic, psychological and health-related problems. Parents often struggle to provide their children with a stable family home: there is a shortage of employment and affordable, decent housing, and the high rates of drug and alcohol addiction remain a problem. Traditionally children who had lost parental care ended up living in state orphanages where they did not acquire the necessary social and practical skills necessary for an independent adult life. In recent years, the authorities have tried to place these children in foster families or in family-based care, but childcare of this kind is not sufficiently available. A deteriorating situation prompts us to provide more direct support to children The growing number of children without parental care has meant that our activities in the area have increased to meet the needs of the population. The local authorities offered their support when we decided to expand our work to provide SOS families for children who could no longer live with their birth families. What we do in Vologda Group of trainees from Vologda (photo: SOS archives) SOS Children's Villages has been active in Vologda since 2008. The SOS Social Centres in Vologda and Cherepovets offer a number of services, which include family strengthening programmes, as well as counselling and psychological support. The programmes provide access to essential services for children's development (for example clothing, nutritional and health support) and support for families, particularly single mothers, so that they can protect and care for their children. We focus of preventing new-born babies from being abandoned and we assist families who have children under the age of three. We work very closely with local agencies and run special parenting classes, provide a kindergarten and publish advice for expectant and new mothers. We also give parents vocational advice and assistance in looking for a job. However, if in spite of support, children cannot stay with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the six SOS families where they are cared for by an SOS mother. The children grow up in family-based care alongside their brothers and sisters. They attend local schools alongside children from the neighbourhood and this aids their integration into the community.