Statement – May 6 2021

SOS Children’s Villages responds to failures in safeguarding and governance


 

  • SOS Children’s Villages has announced rapid improvements in safeguarding and governance measures following its International Senate meeting of 29 April 2021.

  • SOS Children’s Villages confirms with great regret cases of failings and is immediately introducing new measures to support victims, prevent further harm, and improve existing systems, to consistently ensure quality care for all children in its programmes.

SOS Children’s Villages has informed donors and governments that its highest supervisory body, the International Senate, has instructed that an independent Special Commission be established to address past and contemporary cases of failings, including child abuse, corruption, misuse of funds, and breaches of regulations that protect children’s and employees’ human rights.

The independent Special Commission will investigate why the failures occurred, while in other instances the organisation’s policies and processes were appropriately followed through. It will be established during May 2021 under the leadership of an external and experienced chair.

In addition, the International Senate also mandated the rapid creation of a global child safeguarding ombudsperson system to support victims/survivors and anybody seeking resolution of concerns.

A range of further actions to improve safeguarding include making funding from existing reserves available for direct individual support to all children, young persons and other persons affected by abuse in SOS Children’s Villages programmes, to ensure those affected can heal, have closure and have the capacity to become self-reliant.

Statement

The highest levels of the federation are committed to driving all necessary changes. The CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International, Ingrid Maria Johansen, said.

“The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our programs is our primary concern; it’s why we exist. I am deeply saddened that there have been cases within the organisation where some amongst us did not fulfil our promise to keep children safe. On behalf of the federation, I apologise to the children and young people who have been subject to harm. There have been cases where we did not follow the correct procedures, where we did not take sufficient action against perpetrators, where our national and international leaders did not listen to children or our own staff members. I apologise that we did not always live up to the standards we expect for ourselves. Children and young people need adults that can be trusted. I deeply regret that there have been times where we broke that trust.

“We have a duty to act upon allegations and hold those responsible for these failings accountable. I am determined that we will repair harm where we can, support healing, and ensure that every single place in which we work will be safe and caring.

“I will not rest until I am confident that the light of the truth has shone on all wrongdoing. We will believe the courageous individuals who have come forward. We will support those who have suffered, through care, counselling, and wellbeing programmes. We will do everything we can to hold perpetrators to account, with the help of competent authorities.

“I and my colleagues across SOS Children’s Villages look to our donors to support us in this journey. We ask our public partners and governments to help us move rapidly in the right direction – as they have helped others before. With them by our side we can be confident that we can make sure that such failures will not, cannot happen again.”

President, Siddhartha Kaul:

It saddens me greatly that the internal investigation reports provided to the International Senate paint a picture of failings in our organization. In certain specific instances, organization failures were covered up or ignored, victims, witnesses, and whistle-blowers did not receive their due. In those instances, no actions to change circumstances were initiated at any levels of the federation.

“I offer my deep regrets to every child, young person and colleague who was not taken seriously or was forced into silence. By ignoring these allegations, harm continued. I apologize to every person who experienced harm due to inaction or delayed action.

“I will make every possible effort that the Independent Commission can deliver its mandate to ensure key governance issues are addressed and, most importantly, further strengthen our child safeguarding and governing processes. So that children, young people, and colleagues can live and work in a safe environment, can speak up, and are assured that action will be taken.”

 

About SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children's Villages is the world's largest non-governmental organization focused on supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it.

The organization operates a federation system, with member associations present in 137 countries and territories, with most of those having an autonomous board. The highest supervisory body is the International Senate. The General Secretariat comprises the International Office in Austria and five regional offices. There are more than 39,000 employees of the member associations and the General Secretariat.

SOS Children’s Villages has over 65,000 children in its direct care and supports 347,000 children, young people and adults through its family strengthening programs. The SOS Care Promise articulates the organisation’s commitment to create a safe environment for children in everything it does.