SOS Children's Villages started working in Latvia after the country became independent from the former USSR. We first started working in Islice by providing both family-based care and a kindergarten. At present, SOS Children's Villages is also working in Olaine and Riga where it provides support to local children who are at risk of losing parental care. There are two SOS Children's Villages in Latvia, one SOS Youth Facility and five SOS Social Centres (family strengthening programmes).
SOS Children's Villages in Latvia
At present SOS Children's Villages is present in four locations in Latvia providing support for families, children and young people. In addition to family-based care, we offer day-care for young children, and support for young adults and families. Young adults in Islice can live in SOS houses where they are guided on their path to an independent life. SOS Social Centres run family-strengthening programme, which have become important in working directly with families and communities to empower them to effectively protect and care for their children, in cooperation with local authorities and other service providers.
Sponsor a Child in Latvia
SOS relies on the kindness and generosity of Canadians to be able to provide a home for the most vulnerable children of Latvia.
By becoming a child sponsor you are making a commitment to helping an individual child in need. Your gift will help provide a child with food, clothing, education and a loving SOS mother.
Please help us ensure a loving home for every Latvian child. Sponsor a child in Latvia now. Your donation will help change an orphaned or abandoned child's life.
Some facts about Latvia
The Republic of Latvia is a Baltic country which borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, Russia in the east and Belarus in the south-east. The Baltic Sea forms the western border. The population is 2.2 million, Latvians account for 57 per cent of the population and about a third of the population is Russian. The capital city, Riga, has one third of all of Latvia's inhabitants.
In early 1991, a referendum resulted in a large majority favouring secession from the former USSR, and on 21 August, Latvia declared full independence. In June 1993, Latvia held the first parliamentary elections. On 31 August 1994, the remaining Soviet troops left the country. The country has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.
Latvia remains one of the poorest countries within the European Union
Latvia is one of the poorest countries within the European Union. The transition to a market economy was not easy for Latvia, and just as it was beginning to make progress, the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 set back the progress. Some reports suggest that the gross domestic product fell by more than a quarter in 2009. During the crisis the unemployment rate rose sharply to over 20 per cent, it has since decreased and currently stands at around 14 per cent. The service industry accounts for nearly two thirds of employment, industry for approximately a quarter and agriculture plays a significant role. The number of people living in poverty is rising.
Latvia faces important health challenges. The health care system remains one of the worst in Europe. Latvia has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in Europe, and there has been an increase in child mortality in recent years. The suicide rate is one of the worlds highest. HIV/AIDS is also a problem - there are approximately 10,000 cases of the disease in Latvia.
There are some serious human rights concerns in Latvia. The Russian minority faces discrimination especially in employment. Other human rights problems include endemic corruption and organised crime, poor conditions in prisons and in police detention facilities, high levels of violence, child abuse and trafficking in persons.
Situation of the children in Latvia
Children under the age of 14 account for 13.5 per cent of the population of Latvia.
The situation of children has become worse due to the recent social and economic upheavals. More children need support due to their parents’ lack of parenting skills, limited resources and the rise of alcoholism and violence within some families. There has been a cut in investment in state services which improve the lives of children. Regarding education, some local schools have been forced to close and support services, such as psychological advice, are no longer funded.
Most of the children who are taken into care have parents who, for various reasons, are unable to look after them. The recent economic hardships have forced some parents to move abroad in search of work. The children are left in the care of neighbours, relatives or older siblings who are not competent to look after them.
Children who are at risk of losing parental care are also at risk of being victims of other offences against children such as cruelty and abuse, theft, sexual exploitation and rape. There is little emphasis on, and funding for, preventative work within the social care provisions. Families may not receive the support they need, the children are taken from their family of origin and placed in state-run institutions. The children who come out of these institutions are not prepared for independent living.