Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Chile leaders report that for 24 years the organization has worked to assist children and teenagers in need of a temporary home. Looking for ways to further advance that initiative, ADRA, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, recently conducted an international seminar on foster families and the protection of their rights. The one-day event took place at San Sebastian University in Santiago, Chile, on October 24, 2018.
“Chile has been working to improve its protection system for children who, for some reason, can’t live with their families,” said University of Seville researcher Jesús Palacios, who presented at the seminar. “The goal is to learn about new practices, new policies that may help us to improve the lives of children in need.”
San Sebastian University served as the venue for the event because its schools of law, psychology, and economics collaborated recently on a project aimed at improving public policies for host families. “Having these international experts convening here thanks to ADRA is truly an honor,” said Arturo Squella, director of the university’s Center of Public Law and Society. Presenters hailed from Chile, Spain, Colombia, Peru, and Argentina. Chilean national officials also attended, including Sename (National Services for Minors) director Susana Tonda. ADRA Chile has been an accredited supporting body of Sename since 1994.
“We all share the same goal,” Tonda said at the end of the seminar. “It’s a titanic, complex job we have ahead of us, but it is achievable. I am leaving this place full of hope.”
Palacios sees partnerships between the public and private sectors as essential. “The state has a significant role in the life of children and families. But without the support of organizations such as ADRA, it would fall short.”
Verónica Donoso, National Technical Coordinator for Children at ADRA Chile, said the work of the organization is broadly encompassing. “We have twenty different but related programs for children in need of a foster home,” she said. “We work with children who have been victims of sexual or family abuse. We also have programs that work with children being prepared for adoption.”
Donoso added that this context makes the contribution of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as ADRA crucial for the state programs to be successful. “The main goal is for children to live in a family until their legal status is settled,” she said. “They need to enjoy a protective, loving environment, where they can feel cared for and protected.”
Currently, ADRA Chile has more than 2,000 host families across the country. Foster family member María Neilaf summarized her feeling about being part of the program. “[My foster children] are my life,” she said.