“No institution can replace a proper family”, self-advocate tells Europe in Action conference

Kudlicka is a Czech self-advocate who talks about his experience in moving out of an institution and becoming independent-living in the community.

No institution can replace a proper family, self-advocate tells Europe in Action conference

Lukáš Kudlička is a self-advocate from Czechia. Lukáš spoke during the Deinstitutionalisation in Czechia session at Europe in Action conference.

Living in an orphanage: They didn’t support me in any way

I lived in an orphanage, I was there for 18 years. I lived there from the age of 3 to 21. I grew up with my brother raising me.

The caregivers didn’t give me the love I needed. I resented the way they treated me and the way they treated the other kids. They favoured some kids for their studies. When I had a relationship problem, they did not support me in any way. They didn’t give me any advice for both in my relationship and in my sex life. When there were educators and had a family, they did not raise the children as parents would, they raised them as teachers do. They just didn’t give them the kind of love that parents give.

They made me into something I’m not. This made me fight for what I fight for. That is for people with disabilities to have the same rights as people without disabilities.


Lukáš Kudlička speaking (on screen) at a conference

They would not let me out

When I wanted to leave the orphanage, they “arranged” for me a protective treatment, and they also restricted my legal capacity. They would not let me out into the world because they thought I was somehow a sick person. 

I had to follow rules there. If I wanted to go to my best friend’s house, they had to approve for me. If they did not approve, I was out of luck, and if they did approve of me, they still grumbled that it was wrong. I’ve been going there ever since, by the way.  

Another thing I did not like was when I wanted to go out to do sport or to a club.  They did not want to pay for it, they said they did not have the money, or rather they did, but they did not want to put the money into it. But the other kids went to clubs and they paid for them. To this day I don’t know why. I realized that they favoured other kids over me because of my brother and the adult kids who had the same opinion as me. I was 16. I did not have the same rights and entitlements as the other kids in the orphanage. That’s where my upbringing was neglected.  

Finally, I got into sheltered housing

They had a one-bedroom apartment in the orphanage. That is what everyone wanted when they wanted to leave the orphanage. I wanted to go there too, but they did not like it because I was making trouble. But I was making trouble because I was growing up. I tried for a year to get them to put me there. I was there for 2 months and they put me back in the orphanage again because they saw that I needed support from the educators. I needed help, I did not know how to cope. I did not get that help and I had to go back.

But then the childminder came, we worked together again, and I was able to go back to that studio flat. I was there for about a year. It did not help much. I did not have the support I needed. Then I asked a social worker from youth centre if he could help me, and he recommended sheltered housing.   

The orphanage did not show me what reality was like, but that is what the sheltered housing showed me. It prepared me for real life, for being able to go and live in an apartment on my own. That is what I did, I have been living independently for 3 years.  

The orphanage didn’t support me because they didn’t want me to leave

I did not get any support in the orphanage because they did not want me to move. Only my guardian and the social worker from youth centre prepared me for it. The guardian told the orphanage workers what to do with me and they put me in the studio apartment. With that said, what I needed from my guardian she arranged so that I could go see a friend or cook for myself. No educator was with me and showed me exactly how to cook and that was the support I needed and I only got it in the sheltered housing.   

The sheltered housing staff helped me

The support I got was getting information. The sheltered housing staff helped me overall along with the carer and with everything else: What to expect in the flat, what to look out for and they helped me get furniture and pack things. They also helped me find independent living support services. I was attached to them before I moved out of the sheltered housing. 

I also dealt with how to make sure that I am not limited in my legal capacity. I managed to get my legal capacity back after two years after leaving sheltered housing.  I also managed to have my protective treatment lifted this year. But that dragged on for a good 5 years. My former guardian helped me tremendously in that. Then, sheltered housing made a referral for me when I applied for a council flat.

It is a little harder now. I have been living in the city’s youth starter home for 3 years. But my lease is up and I am looking for another place. I still have independent living support from Diakonia. They are helping me to find a new apartment. I am also in contact with my former guardian, and thanks to the self-advocates I am also in contact with people from sheltered housing. But they can not help me anymore, rather they help me psychologically. I can talk to them and get advice.

Every now and then my former guardian lets me know that a city apartment is available. My girlfriend also gives me a lot of support now.

I am practically packed. I’m waiting for the city to get back to me about an apartment becoming available. It is not easy. I have contacted several real estate agencies and looked at about 10 apartments to see if they would rent to me, and I have been turned down everywhere. That is why I am hoping to make it through the city. 

Taking care of children should be 100 % different.

If children are going to be [taken from their family], then adults should be there as parents and not as educators. In my opinion, I had a neglectful upbringing.

That is the difference with sheltered housing, they gave me a lot more love than in the orphanage. I felt like a different person. Whereas when I was in the orphanage, there was no support, no advice, nothing. 

No institution and nothing else can replace a proper family. I would rather have a child somewhere where he grows up with a family, than somewhere where they do not take proper care of the child and make him into something he is not. I am all for if a child cannot be with his family, let him be with a foster family.  

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