The Children's Home
“La Casa de los Niños” arises in the face of a great concern for the child's suffering. Because it is still very small, it can present signs of aggressiveness, boredom, hyperactivity, lack of concentration and other mental and organic difficulties that denote serious disorders, so frequent in adults in today's world.
This project of the AMI Foundation, located on an agricultural farm in Cotacachi, 100 km north of Quito, Ecuador, consists of a temporary foster care environment for families and children aged 0 to 4 years in a situation of extreme vulnerability during the family crisis. Relatives of children's families are therefore also key players in this work.
This work is an unceasing effort to convert studies and research in neurobiology and other fields of knowledge into tools that allow us to understand the laws that govern the development of human beings and create environments that facilitate their full realization.
Both the placement of families and children and the follow-up of their cases are considered in the long term. However, it is in the field of practical life, in the kind of environment and care we offer to children and their families, where we distance ourselves from conventional practice enough to organize a proposal, that of treating the child as a legitimate "other person". We offer the daily demonstration that it is entirely possible to foster experiences of affection and understanding for children in the delicate period of childhood.
This work is an unceasing effort to convert studies and research in neurobiology and other fields of knowledge into tools that allow us to understand the laws that govern the development of human beings and create environments that facilitate their full realization. In "La Casa de los Niños" we organize an environment that allows us to satisfy the children's authentic needs. It is a relaxed environment where each person can manifest himself as he is and open up to self-therapy processes, express his discomfort, discover himself and find his own interests. We observe in this environment "miraculous" recoveries that are possible without resorting to drugs or painkillers, but thanks to the attentive care of adults who express themselves in the delicacy of their gestures, in an accessible and timely language that takes into account the state of the logic of the child, in the affectivity that it offers without conditionings, pressures or expectations.
All this contributes to the recovery of their sense of acceptance, of feeling loved, of being able to trust themselves and others. The personality of the child is also projected from his or her first experiences of autonomy, which are developed around his or her feeding and motor skills.
In "La Casa de los Niños" we do not force-feed the children under any circumstances. We respect their signs of satiety, fullness or intolerance. We offer indoor and outdoor spaces for the development of their skills, where special attention is paid to the presence and non-interference of adults. Children with a similar developmental process share common spaces.
The sensitivity, intelligence and capacity of the child are evident at all times, both when making decisions to collaborate with their care and when choosing the food they want to serve themselves, the corners and materials they want to use and the time given for it. The role of adults requires constant preparation to understand them and is oriented towards providing them with quality nutrients, comfortable clothing for their movements and materials adapted to their needs. We enrich the physical environment that children use, observing details in their motor, emotional, personal and social manifestations, in order to correspond to their legitimate interests at this important stage of their lives, promoting the development of their multiple skills, and all this can be observed by the families that come to spend the mornings with their children.
This vital, unique process of each child has important expressions: internally, in a proper maturation of their neurological structures, which as we know can only occur in this period of their life and on which the strength of their being is projected. Externally, it expresses itself in great achievements in its capacity to face obstacles, to make decisions, to collaborate with others, to respect house rules and to discover the goodness of limits, which allow it to see beyond its own perspective and make possible an adequate and generous coexistence. We are talking about recovery processes for children with a wide range of neurological damage, caused by environments not suitable for their lives: physical or emotional abuse, over-stimulation, abandonment, lack of spaces for expression.
In order to take care of the children's health, we use remedies that are prepared at home, gathering the rich tradition of our villages and our grandmothers. This allows us a warm, human and personal approach to the child's pain. However, we do not rule out the use of medicines or clinical care in special situations. We find that the child's health problems disappear in this environment very quickly.
“La Casa de los Niños” is not a charity or a methodology. It is above all a way of life. Without references of attachment, affection and good treatment, how can we instill values in our children? We incorporate the social sense only when we live it from a base of respect for our life, not when we are forced or conditioned by "values", forcing us to a double morality.
Luis now shares something of his own, after several experiences in which we have confirmed that there is something that belongs to him and that can only be taken with his consent. We don't pressure you, we don't tell you that good and cute kids share things.
Lola accepts more and more calmly that another child be cared for, after we have taken care of her and continue to take care of her with a lot of dedication when she needs it.
Joseph is not required to eat and enjoys much of everything that is offered.
Sara can eat by experimenting in her own way with the use of cutlery, requesting what she likes and the amount she wants... Peter practices balance... Paola helps to make her bed... Ivan doesn't want to spend any more time in the garden...
The adult becomes small to enter into a respectful relationship with the child and look into each other's eyes. In walks or other accompanying activities, do not force the child's hand or walk. He's buzzing with his rhythm. Thus, the child can calmly accept invitations and enjoy other environments. You can rest without conditionings, take a bath without hurrying and on a schedule you like.
Routine referrals in a child's life are essential in building emotional security and developing temporary structures. Every child is aware of what's going on with his or her person and what's around him or her, and what is to come. Nothing happens in "La Casa de los Niños" without the children knowing it in advance, so that they have the peace of mind and time to settle emotionally in new circumstances. Thus, by taking them into account, we are also allowing children to incorporate the feeling of being accepted and loved.
It is possible to play outdoors in complicity with nature. Inside the home, in addition to the spaces that allow different experiences of the children, the adult offers several activities in which the child is free to participate, such as dancing, music, manual projects, watching and listening to stories.
The child's life is nourished by many details. He watches us, perceives us, imitates us. It all matters: how we talk to him, how we touch him, how we close the furniture drawers, how we lay the carpet, how we greet him and say goodbye to him.
The children express a real pleasure in helping: they sweep, wash the dishes, sort the materials in their respective spaces, set the table, clean the table, put the food in its place, put their clothes in their cupboards. We note with amazement and joy this "sensitive epoch of order" of which Dr. Montessori speaks. The kitchen is open to children who already walk and eat alone. How they enjoy cutting lettuce, spinach, chard! The adult who prepares the meals becomes small and on a table accessible to the children he or she does his or her activities. It always has the presence of the curious little ones, who have the opportunity to taste the food in its different states. What a waste of emotions when preparing and eating cakes, and not just on birthdays! Going to collect the eggs from the henhouse, feeding the chickens and seeing them with their chicks. To visit the pig, the guinea pigs, the rabbits. To go for ice cream, to discover the neighborhood and its trades on the days of strolling, with much fascination it is cold or hot. How many things to discover, how much to live for!
Other important activities are carried out around the Casa de los Niños: monitoring the child and his or her family, disseminating these activities through workshops and seminars, and supporting other initiatives in different sectors of the country and the world.
Not only do we offer the environment we have described, but families can always be with their children in the Casa de los Niños and visit the different environments we offer. We do not relate to them on the basis of assessments of any kind. All are respected and accepted, as well as their children. Once the child stops coming, the Foundation continues to provide long-term accompaniment to families with regular visits. In cases of economic hardship, the family is supported by the Foundation with small loans, seeking scholarships or financial contributions until their situation improves.
It is in our interest to continue doing the necessary follow-ups, to demonstrate that families with the above-mentioned background are capable of leading a dignified life and of being honestly inserted into society. It is also in our interest to set precedents and influence public policies, to ensure that State agencies deal with this problem and monitor the lives of children in special situations and their families, ensuring their well-being.