Safeguarding – August 5 2022

Statement on lawsuit in Panama

We understand that 36 former programme participants have filed a civil lawsuit against SOS Children’s Villages International, seeking compensation for alleged child abuse that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. We were devastated when we learned last year of cases in Panama, and we are doing everything we can to support the people affected and hold perpetrators accountable. 

We previously published a statement on the situation in Panama on our website for the Latin America region, which emphasized our commitment to support the victims/survivors. The statement also noted that we had reported the situation to the Panamanian Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) and the Panama Ombudsman's Office. 

We are committed to providing individualized support to persons affected and to dealing with all cases of past abuse with the utmost care, in accordance with our Child Protection Policy. In May 2021, the CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International apologized for past organizational failures, and since then we have been taking many steps to improve our safeguarding and make sure that allegations are investigated in accordance with our organizational policies and procedures. Our Safeguarding Action Plan specifically included a priority action to provide immediate support for those who have experienced abuse, ensuring that those affected are supported towards healing, reconciliation, and becoming self-reliant. 

Another part of the Safeguarding Action Plan was the establishment of an Independent Special Commission, consisting of three internationally-respected judicial experts, to address historical safeguarding failures. The ISC has already begun its investigation into historical child safeguarding failures in Panama and the role of SOS Children’s Villages International. This includes ensuring that past senior managers of SOS Children’s Villages International are held accountable for any wrongdoing. They have given the matter the highest priority. 

The safety and well-being of the children and young people in our care remain our highest priority. We apologize to victims/survivors of abuse in our programmes, or anyone who was not taken seriously by SOS Children’s Villages in the past when they had the courage to come forward with their concerns, and we will cooperate with legal authorities investigating these cases.