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ROVANIEMI, FINLAND – President Dalia Grybauskaitė, together with a group of children from care homes in Lithuania, visited Santa Claus in Finland and gave him a package of letters and Christmas drawings. They told him of their biggest wish – to grow up in loving families. The President also gave Santa a special gift – a glass jar of honey from her bee hives.
One hundred kids from Lithuanian orphanages traveled to Rovaniemi to meet Santa in person.
“Mission Lapland” was organized by the online news portal Delfi, an active partner of the nationwide campaign “For A Safe Lithuania” initiated by President Dalia Grybauskaitė, with the support of the supermarket chain Norfa. They invited children to send their drawings to Santa Claus so that orphanage kids could visit Lapland. This unique social action was met with all-round support. Almost 3000 children specified an orphanage on the map for this magical Christmas trip.
According to the President, “Mission Lapland” has demonstrated that our kids have a lot of compassion and a great spirit of sharing. The children’s wish to grow up in a safe, loving family can be fulfilled if we all work together to make this happen. Already now, many families invite orphanage kids to stay at their home for Christmas, leaving care institutions empty.
The President points out that we have already come a long way to creating a Lithuania without children’s homes. More and more families open their doors to help a child in need. More and more people come forward to protect children from violence and abuse. Local municipalities, too, extend a helping hand to families at risk. The protection of children’s rights and the restructuring of care homes are the key priorities of the national social campaign “For A Safe Lithuania”. On the President’s initiative, placing very small children in orphanage institutions has been restricted, financial support has been increased for adoptive or foster families, professional foster care has been given legal status.
In the past two years, 23 children’s homes have been restructured and almost 400 kids now live in small community foster homes. One fourth of local municipalities no longer place children under three years of age in care institutions; instead, they find a foster home for the little ones who need to be separated from their parents. Alternative fostering has also proved to work well in practice: this year alone, 25 temporary carers took 44 children into their families.
Office of the President of Lithuania