November 20 is World Children’s Day. For the past 13 years, Fondation de France has supported projects to help every child grow up and flourish in the right environment. We take a look at three remarkable initiatives.
Les Pâtes au Beurre (Yummy Pasta), the right to a smoother family relationship
In the Pâtes au Beurre kitchen, in Nantes, parents are talking to a psychomotor therapist. Coffee mug in hand, it’s easier to talk in this welcoming room. Created in 1999 by psychologist Sophie Marinopoulos, the nonprofit welcomes parents, with or without their children, with their questions and the problems they’re facing. Or they come here just because they need to talk with professionals – psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychomotor therapists, etc. Pâtes au Beurre has now become a federation with 10 support groups for families who drop in without an appointment, anonymously and free of charge.
Because it had to shut its premises during the first lockdown, the federation supported by Fondation de France adapted to the emergency in record time: “In two days, we set up a national helpline offering a listening ear and advice for parents who couldn’t cope with the situation,” recalls Sophie Marinopoulos. “From 9am to 9pm, psychologists were ready to take the calls.”
“Some parents found out they could be violent due to the confinement. Others felt overwhelmed by the teacher role which they couldn’t take on. We helped them unpick their children’s behavioral patterns and needs,” she adds. “There was a need for privacy, free time and safety. Parents aren’t idiots, they understand and adapt.” Family relationships become smoother. Although the Pâtes au Beurre welcome centers are currently open, the nonprofit kept its two weekly helpline services, which shows the initiative is meeting a need that is not just due to the pandemic.
Acina, the right to go to school
Every day, the Acina team sets out to meet families who live in squats and slums in the greater Paris region. “Our support for families is comprehensive, so that parents can access health care coverage, a job or training program and children can go to school,” explains Jeanne Reig, program co-director. This is an effective 360-degree approach, that paves the way for better living and development conditions.
Which is how Acina guided a dad to a food bank and then helped him look for a job. He is now working. The family found accommodation via the 115 helpline, representing a step towards stability that meant his seven-year-old boy could go to the holiday club and then to school.
In slums, 40% of residents are minors and only 20% of them go to school. In the fall of 2020, Acina managed to get 200 children to enroll in a school. “The challenge was good attendance,” explains Jeanne Reig. “Children enroled in a French school fare much better, even if attendance is sometimes a problem. They have routines and know how to ask for help.” Acina also organizes leisure activities, outings to museums and movies, so that children in shantytowns can be exposed to culture.
Moissons Nouvelles (New Harvests), the right to stay in touch with one’s parents
The Maison d'Enfants à Caractère Social (MECS – Social Homes for Children) accommodate children entrusted to Youth Social Welfare. Fondation de France regularly supports their critical work. In Paris, the MECS Moissons Nouvelles has just created "Parent'aise”, a place where homeless parents can sporadically host their child in care. “Often, parents would pick up their child for the day and not know where they could take them to,” explains Véronique Alleaume, director of the program. “After a morning spent in a bar or walking in the rain, they rushed back to bring us their child, who got it into their head that their parent didn’t love them.”
Parent'aise is a welcoming studio apartment with beds, so that families can have privacy. There is a door to the MECS, which continues to carry out its mission of child protection. “This is a place where siblings are also welcome,” adds Grégory Garcia, head of the education department. “A young man we welcomed for several years will soon be spending an evening with his young brother and sister, who are still at the Mecs.”
Véronique Alleaume considers it essential that children be able to connect or reconnect with their parents: “Enjoying the moment with parents who they continue to love and making sense of their experience lets them grow.”
According to Anne Bouvier, head of the Fondation de France Children and Education Program, these three initiatives are a good illustration of various aspects of child protection: “Pâtes au Beurre works towards prevention, which is essential and actually quite rare. Acina supports families who live in very precarious conditions, so that they can enjoy some respite and stability. Moissons Nouvelles helps adults continue to be parents, although their children are in care. In this line of work, the throughline is children’s right to education:this isn’t just about access to school, it’s also about helping parents to bring up their children, whatever their situation.”
FIND OUT MORE