Safeguarding – August 5 2022

Statement on lawsuits in Panama

We are deeply saddened to learn about abuse that former programme participants in SOS Children's Villages programmes in Panama have experienced. 

We understand that 36 former programme participants have filed civil lawsuits against SOS Children’s Villages International, seeking compensation for alleged child abuse that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. Since we have learned of the cases in Panama last year, we have tried to support the people affected and we are trying to hold perpetrators accountable. In doing so, we are following our zero-tolerance Child Protection Policy, and we remain committed to supporting the victims and providing individualized care, which may include medical, psychological, and livelihood support.  

We urge anyone with knowledge or suspicion of past safeguarding failures to come forward via our confidential whistle-blowing channel or childsafeguarding@sos-kd.org.   

Contrary to what has been published elsewhere, we have taken action and tried to ensure all victims were supported once we had learned about the above cases. As is core of our Child Protection Policy, we are dealing with all cases of past abuse with utmost care. To protect the identity of people affected, for instance, we do not disclose any personal information on victims or whistle-blowers. Also, we reported the situation to the Panamanian Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) and the Panama Ombudsman's Office. For further reference please see a statement on the situation in Panama we published in April this year.  

Since May 2021, when the CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International acknowledged past organizational failures with regard to child safeguarding issues and publicly apologized, we have been taking many steps to improve our safeguarding. We had already established robust organizational policies and procedures to make sure that all allegations are investigated thoroughly. Our Safeguarding Action Plan specifically included a priority action to provide 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 (ISC), consisting of three internationally respected judicial experts, to address historical safeguarding failures. The ISC has already begun its investigation into SOS Children’s Villages International’s role in historical child safeguarding failures in Panama. The ISC has 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. 

For more information, please contact press@sos-kd.org

Updated on September 22 2022