ITALY: New Salesian Semi-Residential Program Aims to Help Youth Living in Challenging Home Environments
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian-run Don Bosco Boys’ Town in Rome, Italy has started a new program to assist youth in need of extra support. The semi-residential community is aimed at youth 10 to 16 years old who are living in difficult conditions and have been referred to the program by social service departments in the area. Salesian missionaries are working to safeguard the rights of these youth and help them focus on school, as well as address ongoing behavior issues and difficulties in their home environment.
Salesian missionaries are also hoping the project creates meaningful collaboration between departments to promote social and educational action on behalf of children and families. While the facility was finished in January 2016, the final governmental authorizations were completed in June and the program began working with youth at that time. Most of the youth in the program come from families who are dealing with economic and social difficulties, and have many problems within the family structure.
The intervention provided at the Salesian programs aims to stop the situation from getting worse and prevents, if possible, children needing to be removed permanently from the home. Salesian missionaries bring together the child, their family, teachers and others involved in their lives to address issues and put the appropriate supports in place. Youth still live with their own family, but spend the afternoon at the Salesian program. Here, through study, play and structured family time such as lunch and other activities, youth learn to strengthen their emotional relationships and to build a social network of support in addition to their family.
“Salesian missionaries know that youth cannot focus on their studies when they are living in crisis and a challenging home environment,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This program helps youth address the economic and social challenges they and their families are facing while teaching them the skills they need, like effective communication, team work and problem solving, to build and maintain healthy relationships.”
In Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, close to 2 million children live in poverty, according to UNICEF. With more than 25 percent of the country’s children living in poverty, Italy has the highest percentage of child poverty out of all 25 European countries. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis, and unemployment is at its highest level since the late 1970s with the overall jobless rate at 12.5 percent and youth unemployment as high as 41 percent. Some youth are unable to attend school and others drop out to work at the few jobs available to them. A growing number of children work as laborers on farms and others have turned to the sex trade to help support their families. Those in poverty often live without adequate shelter, hot water, regular meals and health care.
According to UNICEF, a growing number of youth are living away from their families in temporary shelters and within government and charity programs because of inadequate support from or neglect by their families. Salesian programs work to combat these challenges by providing shelter, nutrition, education and workforce development services for youth in need.
UNICEF – Italy Poverty