Reception holidays in Andalusian families: when the extraordinary thing is to play | Andalusia

“Without Siham I don’t know where I would be, because she has given me everything.” The one who speaks with a voice brimming with enthusiasm is Lucía Tagua, a 22-year-old young woman from Seville, who was 16 when she met Siham Amar Abdelkader in 2016, who became her collaborating family, a figure created so that those who so wish can share their way of life with children or adolescents residing in child protection centers on weekends and holidays. Siham was 26 years old at the time and his presence gave Lucía the necessary security and confidence to be able to face the transition to coming of age, entering a majority flat —where young people who have turned 18 are housed— and the start of the Fine Arts degree.

In Andalusia there are 237 minors who, like Lucía four years ago, spend weekends and vacation periods with 222 collaborating families, according to data provided by the Andalusian Ministry of Equality, Social Policies and Conciliation. This resource, which is aimed at minors in residential care for whom institutionalization is expected in the medium or long term or for whom it is not possible to start another type of coexistence immediately, is also offered -although with different regulations and parameters- in another 11 autonomous communities.

The Board carries out this work through NGOs such as Crecer con Futuro, which began working with collaborating families in 2013. “The minors who reside in protection centers are invisible, a good part of society still believes that they are Kaffirs, when the majority they end up there for reasons beyond their control, because their parents don’t know how to take care of them”, explains Gema Carrasco, president of this organization. “The objective of this program is to create a link between the kids and their families so that they can learn about other patterns and models of coexistence and feel that they have an unconditional figure by their side, and in many cases that link never ends” , abounds.

This is the case of Lucía and Siham, who are still in close contact. “The relationship we have created is for life,” says Siham. “I understood from the beginning that I had to visualize what a healthy family relationship was so that he could see where the limits of self-esteem, priorities, and emotions are, because I felt that in the reception resources where he had been, he did not know they had taught it”, he explains. A need that Lucía also highlights: “I wanted to get out of the routine of the center, not have scheduled hours, or pressure and because of Siham’s age, sometimes I saw her as my friend and sometimes also as a mother figure, because she cared about me in a more sincere way than the monitors of the center, where after all you are one more that is part of their work”.

emotional needs

In the protection centers, minors have their material needs covered, but not their emotional ones. “Feeling important to someone is very difficult in that environment,” says Carrasco. Lucía, who has a disability, ended up in that institution because her parents, also disabled, could not take care of her or her sisters. Like the mother of Ayoub and Adam, 19 and 17 years old, respectively, who, after divorcing her husband and losing her job, had no resources to take care of her children.

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Ayoub has also not broken ties with Hélène Roux and Erwin Alderlieste, a Franco-Dutch couple who have been residing in Spain for more than three decades. When her two adopted children came of age, they decided to become a partner family. “Coming here was a change of scenery for me, having more freedom,” explains Ayoub, sitting on the porch of the house that Hélène and Erwin have in the middle of the countryside in Valencina de la Concepción (20 minutes from Seville). He works as a mechanic in the neighboring town of Gines, and many nights he sleeps with them to save himself the trip on a scooter to the apartment where he lives in Triana. “When he moved to the majority flat, we talked about it and told him that we were not going to be able to adopt or welcome him, but that he would always have us for whatever he needed,” says Hélène. They helped him settle down when, when he turned 18, he went to Barcelona where his mother was, leaving a permanent job as a mechanic in Seville, thinking that he could resume ties with his mother. “I talked a lot with them then and they made me see that I had to come back. I am very introverted, but with them I have opened up a lot”, he acknowledges.

Ayoub went to the movies or to the beach with them and when he returned to the center, his brother Adam admits that he was jealous. Hélène and Erwin noticed him and offered to be his collaborating family as well. There are studies, as Carrasco indicates, that show that minors who are in this type of resource improve their academic performance, and that has happened with Adam, says his brother. “The third quarter was very weak and thanks to Erwin helping him with math, he was able to get his ESO. In the center it would not have been possible, ”he maintains. “We have an agreement with him and for having passed the course, this summer we are going to go to the Netherlands, my country,” says Erwin, smiling.

Luis Martín and Yank Le Gréezause, Jesus’ collaborating family, 11 years old.Alexander Ruesga

For these guys to have the opportunity to go on vacation is something extraordinary. “At the beginning of the course my friends from school told what they had done in the summer and even being with Siham I felt excluded, because I had spent it in the center,” says Lucía. Things that are taken for granted in any family, such as playing, taking a nap or going to the fridge for a snack, for these children is also something unusual.

Luis Martín and Yank Le Gréezause have verified this in the two years in which they have become the collaborating family of Jesús, a boy who is about to turn 11. “He has never had the opportunity to have a room for himself , to play with toys, to get bored, are things that do not exist for him, “says Yank.

After trying to adopt for a long time without success, Luis and Yank are excited about Jesus, who since he met them has stopped self-harming as a reaction to his frustration. A behavior that, as Luis says, was habitual. It is the center that determines the time that the minors must spend with their collaborating family because they want to avoid breaking the bond with the institution, but in the case of Jesús, his evolution is so positive that every Thursday afternoon, when he pick up from school, until Monday morning, when they drop him back there, he is always with them, just like the two summer months.

Both have readjusted their lives to the needs of the child, to the point of organizing their trips to France, where Yank is from, so that Jesus does not spend a week without them. They are considering taking the step towards permanent foster care and even being a foster family for another minor.

María Jesús Roldán, divorced and mother of two daughters aged 20 and 15, and her partner Fran Rodríguez, also divorced and with a 13-year-old girl, cannot afford to reorganize the schedules of their large family for Luz María, 17 years, and of which María José has been her foster family for three and a half years. “Being part of our routine is precisely what makes it one more,” she says. She was always clear that she wanted to share her time and the space they had in her house in Condequinto de Ella (Dos Hermanas, Seville) with a minor who was in a protection center. “I also wanted my daughters to know that there is another reality apart from theirs,” she says.

Beyond the particular reasons, altruism and generosity are two qualities shared by all the families that have collaborated in this report. None deny having had any initial prevention, but as Erwin says: “Fear leads to nothing.” Everyone encourages other families to join their adventure to give these boys a second chance. And they are not the only ones. “People are suspicious, but we are just normal kids who want to have fun and make us feel special like everyone else. They should get closer and get to know us better, because they are missing the opportunity to meet beautiful people. That way there would be more happiness in the world”, Lucía ditches.

“Good people with a very wide heart”

To increase the number of volunteers interested in being part of the Collaborating Families program, the Junta de Andalucía has launched awareness and recruitment campaigns. One of them is With you towards the Moon, promoted by Crecer con Futuro and which has sought to capture, through recognized illustrators, some of the stories of love, altruism and generosity that this initiative has generated. The Cordovan based in Seville Pablo Little is one of the artists who has collaborated in this campaign, which he acknowledges has moved him. “It has allowed me to verify that there are good people, with a very wide heart,” he says. “Many times we are very selfish, but these families show that in addition to worrying about their own, they take time to help others.” Little hopes to be able to teach creation workshops for these families and the minors who live with them starting next year.

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