Increasing Troubles in Chile’s Sename Children Homes

SANTIAGO — The Supreme Court released a report which reveals that almost half of the homes managed by the National Service for Minors (Sename) are overcrowded or at their limit of capacity. The number of institutionalized children has increased since the end of 2018. This statistic is only one of the many issues with these residences.

A study by the Supreme Court has revealed that over 40% of homes managed by the National Service for Minors (Sename) are at their limit or are overpopulated.

Sename is the branch of the Chilean government which is responsible for the regulation of the adoption of minors as well as the protection of adolescent rights before the judicial system.

According to El Mercurio, the number of children which live in a home managed by Sename increased from 5,900 in the second half of 2018 to 6,200 in the first half of 2019.

The report revealed that in three cities there is 100% overcrowding in their homes: Chillán, Copiapó, and Punta Arenas. 

In its conclusion, the report notes, “Many of the children admitted to these residences are physically, psychologically and emotionally exposed to victimization and other sources of violation.”

Commenting on the report, Patricia Muñoz, National Defender of Childhood, told Cooperative, “it is imperative that the organs of the State responsible for changing their vital situation are culpable for their actions.”

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Overcrowding Is Just One of Many Problems

The Sename centers are haunted by incidents. Yesterday, on Oct. 15, a fire broke out in a newly inaugurated residence in Valparaíso, which was evacuated immediately. Nobody was injured, but the incident is indicative of the greater issues which have plagued these homes for many years. 

For example drug use, a pervasive issue for minors in these institutions. A Sename report earlier this year found that over 3,500 children and adolescents in its homes used alcohol and/or drugs. 

Potential and actual abuse is another issue. In one instance, a 30-year-old man was convicted for abusing a young girl in a Sename residence in 2015. As a construction worker, the man was able to access the residence and groom the young girl. 

Jorge Borredá, regional president of the National Association of Workers of the Sename, criticized the system after this incident and claimed that there are no safeguard policies when hiring workers.

In fact, according to a report by the National Institute of Human Rights in 2018, out of the 401 children who were interviewed in these residences, 23 cases of sexual abuse were reported which occurred in the preceding 12 months. 

Also read:

Government closes criticized Playa Ancha center for children

Death of an 11-Year-Old In a Sename Center

In an extreme example of non-sexual physical abuse, 11-year-old Lissette Villa died at a Sename residence due to what was initially thought to be a heart attack. In reality, according to the coroner’s report, Villa died due to suffocation as a result of external compression: two caretakers at the residence had punished the girl for disobedience by holding her down on the floor and sitting on her for several minutes, restricting her movements.

Following this incident, the United Nations investigated the institutions managed by Sename and released its own report in 2018 condemning the actions of the state. It directly referenced the issue of overcrowding and said that, on average, the institutions are “in critical condition, there is a permanent deterioration of the centers, with only partial repairs and of poor quality. There are safety deficiencies, such as lack of escape routes and safety zones.”

More on Sename:

Protest in Sename: four minors hospitalized after eating glass

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