The Need in Latvia

Latvia is a country that has moved from the Soviet style of socialism to a democratic government and a market-based economy. Latvia has made impressive economic progress in a very short time. However, poverty remains a potent legacy of the Soviet era. Unemployment, low wages and a shortage of low-income housing are hampering the transition from a planned economy to a free-market system. The severity of these conditions greatly increases as one travels to rural areas away from the capitol of Riga with the most acute conditions present in Latvia’s eastern region of Latgale.

Services to support children who are at-risk are virtually non-existent. The government of Latvia is under tremendous pressure to balance its budget. It struggles to maintain existing human services and it is nearly impossible fund new services. The existence of a sizable population of abandoned, abused, handicapped and homeless children is only now beginning to be officially recognized.

Virtually all children who are abused must suffer in silence. The stark reality for abused children outside of Riga is that few crisis centers or shelters are available. A few local governments offer centers providing non-emergency services such as after-school activities, hot meals and tutoring in addition to crisis intervention. But these are rare and none offer overnight accommodations for abused mothers and their children.