Safeguarding – August 5 2022

Statement on lawsuits in Panama

Last updated on January 13 2023

We are deeply saddened to learn about the claims of past abuse experienced by former programme participants in SOS Children's Villages Panama.  

We understand that 41 individuals have filed civil lawsuits against SOS Children’s Villages International, seeking compensation for alleged safeguarding failures in the 1980s and 1990s. 51 individuals have come forward to report past cases of abuse. 

We strive to hold perpetrators accountable. We follow our zero-tolerance Child Protection Policy, and we remain committed to supporting any victim/survivor with individualized, integral care. 

We urge anyone with knowledge or suspicion of safeguarding failures to come forward via our confidential whistle-blowing channel or

Contrary to what has been published elsewhere, we have offered individualized, integral support to all those who have come forward, ever since we learned of the cases last year. We will extend this support to anyone else who comes forward. This support includes counselling, medical care, and practical support to aid healing and self-reliance. It can include livelihood support for the victims/survivors. 

As is core to our Child Protection Policy, we are dealing with all cases of past abuse with utmost care. To protect the identity of affected people, for instance, we do not disclose any personal information of victims or whistle-blowers.  

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 integral 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 internationally respected judicial experts, to address past safeguarding failures. The Independent Special Commission has already begun its investigation into past child safeguarding failures in SOS Children’s Villages programmes in Panama. The commission 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 anyone who may have been affected by abuse in our programmes, or feels he/she was not taken seriously by SOS Children’s Villages in the past when they had the courage to come forward with their concerns.  

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