Intervening for Children Who Suffer Sexual Violence in Colombia

AGCI’s Vice President of International Programs, Kiersten Luginbill, shares updates from our partners in Bogota, Colombia.

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We know that children do best in a family setting and in Bogota, Colombia, AGCI partners with a local nonprofit organization founded in 1968, that works hard to provide wraparound services so that children can remain in family care. The organization serves families from the lowest socioeconomic class in hopes of giving them the strength and support they need to stay together. Over the last 10 years, they’ve focused on family-based and community programming. They provide therapeutic services, parenting classes, and overall support for vulnerable families and children who live in this community. Most recently, they pivoted to providing emergency relief supplies through the pandemic. But their work doesn’t end there.

There were over 14,000 cases of sexual violence toward children reported to the ICBF (Colombia’s child welfare institute) in 2019. As the numbers of cases continue to rise, ICBF investigates each case and arranges for the child to be placed in a safe location (sometimes with a foster family and sometimes in an institution) while they process the case. During that time, the child receives in-depth counseling and support services from a designated provider in Colombia. The challenge is that our partner is one of only three providers licensed to offer these services in all of Bogota. It’s not hard to imagine their case overload. They have tended to over 500 children in a 12-month period and have a waitlist of 200 children who’ve undergone similar trauma but continue to wait for services and support. Quickly, it becomes clear that resources for this are an urgent need, in addition to the urgent needs created by the pandemic. 

When trying to address one complex crisis on top of another, our partners decided innovation in their response was necessary. For the first time ever, they began providing online counseling services through a designated platform, so that children who have been victims of sexual violence can continue to meet with a licensed mental health professional who can support them as they seek to understand and heal from their experience. One of their hopes is that they’re able to intervene early enough to prevent children from experiencing additional isolation, fear, or shame, during a pandemic that already has everyone dealing with so much. 

During a time that has brought indefinite lockdowns around the world, postponed services, and shuttered doors at various child welfare agencies, children who are victims of sexual violence are at risk of being forgotten in the sidelines. We’re so grateful for our partners on the ground in Bogota, Colombia, who are navigating these challenges in innovative ways to fill the gap in responding to children’s needs. We feel called to support their efforts and pray that God will continue to light their way.

Learn more about AGCI’s international programs and how you can become a cycle breaker today.