Group care as a vehicle for social integration of youth
Emmanuel Grupper, FICE Israel
Education and Empowerment → Workshop E6
Mittwoch, 9. Oktober 2013
11.00 - 12.30
Social Psychology has proved; long time ago, the powerful influence of peer group, especially for adolescents. Living together in groups, among peers, is still largely practiced in Israel for integrating socially excluded young people, either because of immigration or because of special needs. The leading model is the residential education and care facilities called "Youth Villages". These are communities of 150-300 adolescents who are living together with their educators in groups of 18-30 adolescents (12-18), of the same age. The educational orientation is prevailing, contrary to many residential care systems, where the therapeutic orientation is taking the lead.
The basic idea of this model of inclusion is the organization of a heterogenic and multicultural youth society. This is an open system, where Children come in voluntarily and are not forced to stay if they wish to leave. Families with low socio-economic background can benefit for their children of free full board schooling, accommodation, meals, health care, educational enrichment programs and if needed also psychological counseling. Inclusion is being achieved by many means, one of them including Autistic children in a normative setting. Another principle is that inclusion is being achieved gradually, starting from the inner circle up to the larger social context. In each circle the challenge is to acquire the feeling of 'belonging'. First circle of activity are the rooms in the dormitory where young people are living. For socialization reasons, 3-4 young people are sharing the same room. This will be the first circle of integration. The objective is that young people would learn to socialize and live together with other peers, and by this acquire sense of belonging to their roommates. Second circle of integration is the group, to which one is attached. Every group has its own building. When school is over, a lot of social activities are organized for the whole group by the social educators. The outcome of these activities is hopefully the emergence of sense of belonging to the group. Every group has a different name; often they choose a special song, and other activities that enable youngsters to be proud of being part of the group. Third circle is developing a sense of belonging to the community of the youth village. This is obtained through celebration of holidays, cultural activities, common meals, excursions, sports activities etc. This is the highest level of integration that could be achieved while young people are still part of the educational system. However, systematic follow up have demonstrated that graduates of youth villages are more likely emotionally well prepared for successful integration in the society at large, after leaving care.