NEW YORK—At a recent United Nations youth forum, Yasmina was invited to speak about alternative care for children. On this matter, Yasmina is eminently qualified—she herself lived in alternative care for much of her young life.
At age 12, social services removed Yasmina, now 19, and her sister from her home because her father “didn’t take proper care of us,” she said in a recent interview. The state authorities referred the two sisters to SOS Children’s Villages in Zaragoza, Spain, which was opened in 1994 and is one of eight SOS Villages in Spain.
“When we arrived [to the SOS Village], I was so surprised...It was a nice and quiet place,” Yasmina said. “It was a big relief to forget the preoccupations I had, which were so inappropriate for a child of my age.”
Today, Yasmina studies computer science at the University of Zaragoza. She credits much of her success to her upbringing in her SOS Family.
“I had all I needed and I had the unconditional support of my SOS mother,” she said. “She and all the people who work for us are much more than just educators. I could not be more grateful.”
Children play at an SOS Village in Spain in 2011. The first SOS Village in Spain was opened in 1970. Photo credit: Ivan Hidalgo.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSCO) Youth Forum, where Yasmina spoke late last month, brings together young people and youth-focused organizations from around the world to engage in dialogue with policymakers.
Yasmina is one of several SOS alumni who have spoken at the UN and other international forums about alternative care for children. The goal is to involve youth in the policies that shape their lives.
Days before she addressed the forum, Yasmina was asked what message she would deliver to the audience regarding alternative care for children.
“I think it would be necessary to promote a family atmosphere for these children in which they can be what they are—kids,” she said. “In addition, I think it’s important to open more care centers with a humane approach to the children.”
For its 2017 theme, the U.N. youth forum chose: The Role of Youth in Poverty Eradication and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World.
On that topic, Yasmina commented that children in alternative care need continued support even after they graduate high school. This support, she says, is necessary for a child to be able to successfully transition to adulthood and become economically independent.
“The young people need follow-up programs when they reach adulthood because most care programs, unlike SOS Children’s Villages, only work with them until they are 18 years old. I think what is needed is extra support for the transition to adult life,” she said.
Across the 134 countries and territories where we work to build loving and stable families, SOS makes it a priority whenever possible to encourage youth to actively engage in policymaking processes that have a direct impact on their lives.
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