In Guatemala, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake welcomes steps towards greater focus on child protection systems
While challenges remain, Guatemala has taken steps towards improving child protection systems, establishing more specialized Children’s Courts, pledging to resolve ‘transition adoption’ cases, preventing children ending up in institutions, supporting families to keep their children and punishing crimes against children.
Such progress will be especially important for children like those in the beds and cribs of Hogar Seguro, one of the largest institutions for children in Latin America. In total 5,800 children still reside in institutions such as this, with little or no access to their families.
Hogar Seguro houses children from 18 years old down to tiny premature babies. Some babies just days old, some reaching out from their cribs and bassinettes, some quietly, others not so quietly, desperate to be held. One toddler, Isios, caught UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake’s eye, crying out as Lake walked by before smiling when the Executive Director stopped and picked him up.
“No matter how good and caring the institution – and this is a good one, the workers here are doing wonderful work – nothing can replace the love of a family,” said the Executive Director.
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Photo credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-2271/Markisz
Photo caption: Maricela Cuc reads to two of her four foster children, sisters Lucero, 5, and Luz Clarita, 8, at home in Alta Verapaz region. Social welfare authorities placed the children with Ms. Cuc to avoid institutionalizing them. Their mother had abandoned the children but is now in a rehabilitation programme and hopes to regain custody.