Statement on Child Safeguarding and Governance Measures

OTTAWA, May 6, 2021 – SOS Children’s Villages works tirelessly to provide quality care and protection to vulnerable children and young people around the world. As a part of a worldwide federation, we continuously strive to improve our work so that we can provide the highest standard of care.

On April 29, 2021, the organization’s highest supervisory body, the International Senate, instructed that an independent Special Commission be established following two externally prepared reports commissioned within the organization. The independent Special Commission will address serious cases of safeguarding and governance failings over a significant period of time, including child abuse, corruption, misuse of funds, and breaches of UN guidelines and regulations that protect children’s and employees’ human rights.

We are deeply saddened and disturbed that there are cases within the organization where we did not fulfil our promise to keep children safe or live up to the standards that we demand for ourselves as a rights-based organization. SOS Children’s Villages stands with those who are victims of past misconduct. We are fully committed to rectifying past failures in an open and transparent manner. To that end, we welcome and support the swift decisions already taken by the International Senate of SOS Children’s Villages.

Thomas Bauer, President and CEO of SOS Children’s Villages Canada said:

“On behalf of the SOS Children’s Villages Canada board and staff, I apologize to the children and young people who have been subjected to harm. We greatly regret that there have been times where we broke our trust with children and youth. I also apologize to our many supporters and donors for the breach of trust this has caused.

“We have a duty to urgently act upon these concerning allegations and hold those responsible for the failings accountable. Let us be clear, we will not rest until we repair harm and ensure everywhere we work is safe and caring for children, young people and staff,”

As a member of the SOS Children’s Villages federation, SOS Children’s Villages Canada will make every effort to drive change at all levels of the federation. We are committed to doing more to support victims, witnesses and whistleblowers who courageously come forward, so their concerns are fully addressed.

SOS Children’s Villages is moving quickly to enact improvements in safeguarding and governance measures at all levels of our international organization. As a starting point, and to further improve our child safeguarding, our International Senate has committed to enacting the following measures:

  • An independent Special Commission will be established this month to investigate allegations and cases of misconduct and review breaches in our policies and standards.
  • A child safeguarding ombudsperson system will be created to represent the rights of children, young people, and other affected persons. It will support victims, survivors and anyone with a concern to confidentially submit claims that need to be resolved.
  • Support for affected children, young people, and adult survivors. Additional resources, including funds, will help support children, young people, and others affected. This is to ensure they can heal, have closure, and become self-reliant when they are ready.

These new measures will strengthen existing systems and help SOS Children’s Villages create real change where misconduct of any form is rooted out. We are committed to fostering an organizational culture where those responsible are held accountable, past failures are fully investigated and we prevent this from ever happening again.

We realize there is much more work to be done to rebuild trust and right the wrongs of the past, but we are committed to taking the necessary steps.

To read the statement from our International CEO, Ingrid Maria Johansen