Emilie Smrcková

Pod Krídly
Year founded: 
Czech Republic

Pod Krídly provides homes for young people who grew up in children's home and foster care, offering assistance with their integration into society.

Focus: Education, Labour Conditions, Unemployment
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Geographic Area of Impact: Czech Republic
Annual Budget: US$ 593,158 (2009)
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 43 (2009)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Czech Republic, 2009

In the Czech Republic, the state’s institutional and foster care systems officially cease to care for children once they become 18 years-old, the age they are considered adults and required to care for themselves. In contrast to children who have a family, these individuals lack not only a support network but, in most cases, the knowledge of basic social customs and skills that can ease their transition to an independent life. Many are unable to cope and end up on the street, becoming trapped by debt or living a life of crime. Pod Krídly provides halfway houses that offer living conditions as supportive and secure as possible. The organization helps young adults become socially integrated into society, minimizing their chance of engaging in a life of crime or becoming a burden on the state’s social assistance network.

Innovation and Activities
Pod Krídly operates halfway houses for young adults leaving institutional or foster care by offering a three-year residency period. During this time they have to work in order to pay rent, and the use of alcohol and narcotics is prohibited in the homes. The organization helps these young adults clear their debts and learn to manage their money. If they are unable to succeed on their own, they are given a budget by a staff member. These young adults receive job search assistance, help in re-qualifying for studies, and they visit specialists outside the home, including psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists. Social work is individualized and staff members prepare and execute personal development plans to enable successful social integration.

After the three-year residency period most of the young adults find a rented apartment, employment and have established some savings. This reduces the potential for criminal activity in this high-risk group; feedback has shown that 90% have integrated into society and are living trouble-free lives.

From the very beginning Pod Krídly has cooperated closely with the cities in which it operates, and in some cases the cities donate houses, land and financial aid. It also collaborates with children’s homes, child welfare authorities and other organizations operating halfway houses. Additionally, the organization strives to forge close ties with the private sector and foundations.

The Entrepreneur
Emilie Smrcková worked as a railway dispatcher, raised four sons, and over the course of 20 years served as a foster parent for another 20 kids from children’s homes. Pod Krídly was founded with the help of members of her own family. She closely cooperates with local governmental authorities and is an active participant in the national discussion on institutional and foster care programmes.