Improvements in safeguarding and governance
The establishment of SOS Children’s Villages was driven by the belief and recognition that all children have the right to quality care. Today, SOS Children’s Villages is present in more than 130 countries and continuously strives to improve its work so we can provide children and families with the support they need to thrive.
SOS Children’s Villages approach to child safeguarding is informed by best practice and learnings as a global organization. Alongside our team of child-care experts and partners, SOS Children’s Villages taps into the experiences of our diverse international federation and its accumulative body of knowledge on how to ensure quality care and a safe environment.
SOS Children’s Villages’ child safeguarding journey has seen important progress as well as challenges over the years. As a care provider, we are aware of the higher child safeguarding risk profile compared to other child-focused organizations. Accordingly, our child safeguarding work is guided by international standards and a continuous assessment of the contexts in which our programs operate. We also work closely with children, families and their communities, local and national authorities, our partners, and other stakeholders to ensure young people and families can realize their universal human rights.
“Creating a safe and nurturing environment where children can realize their rights is our global organization’s highest priority. We are joined in this mission with colleagues, partners, and donors around the world to deliver on this promise. Together, we aim to continuously learn from our past, work alongside children and families, and take concrete steps to ensure quality care for the next generation of young people,” SOS Children’s Villages Canada President and CEO Thomas Bauer said.
In May 2021, the SOS Children’s Villages International Senate introduced new child safeguarding measures, a result of reports commissioned within the SOS federation to learn from past child safeguarding cases and address allegations of wrongdoing. These new measures will help ensure consistent quality care for all children and young people in our programs.
One of these recent initiatives is the safeguarding action plan for 2021-2024. The SOS Children’s Villages’ child safeguarding team has developed a comprehensive action plan, which aims to address key learnings of recent years. More specifically, SOS Children’s Villages has prioritized eight key actions in the plan:
- Setting up an independent Special Commission to address cases of failings and allegations of breaches of SOS Children’s Villages’ policies
- Establishing an ombudsperson system to represent the rights of children, young people, and other affected persons
- Funding individual support for those who have experienced maltreatment or abuse
- Providing extra support for our programs in high-risk countries
- Expanding our Protective Behaviours Empowerment program for children and young people
- Strengthening the incident management system
- Updating and embedding our code of conduct into everything we do
- Fully implementing our existing policy on the prevention of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse
In June 2021, we welcomed new senior leadership as the SOS Children’s Villages International President, Vice-President and Senate members were elected. These new members, along with recently hired global CEO, Ingrid Johansen, will help usher in a new vision and leadership for our global organization.
The new SOS Children’s Villages International President, Dr. Wordofa, has dedicated his 30-plus-year career to social development and humanitarian work, most recently as the United Nation’s Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Population Fund. His early priorities will be to lead changes in the broader governance and culture of SOS Children’s Villages to strengthen program quality and safeguarding in every corner of the organization.
“I hope to bring a fresh perspective and new insights based on my experience advocating for the rights of children. I commit to addressing the failings from the past to strengthen safeguarding and program quality to the highest standard, with transparency and accountability,” Dr. Wordofa said.
“As President, my job description in one line will be to ensure that every child and young person grows up with the bonds they need to become their strongest selves.”
Together with our colleagues, partners, and donors around the world, we are taking the necessary steps towards a better future and building a stronger organization. We are confident that these new changes will strengthen our organization and make us a better partner to the children, young people, and families we work with.