SANTIAGO – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday announced the allocation of 2.5 billion pesos ($3.7 million) to the country’s network of children’s centers where in the past 11 years 865 kids have died.
The president announced the measures two days after the director of the National Children’s Service, or Sename, Solange Huerta, reported the number of deaths at the centers between 2005 and 2016.
During a ceremony held at La Moneda Palace, the presidential residence, Bachelet said that the figures “make an impression and cause sadness,” adding that they represent a “tragedy and shame for our society.”
The Chilean state has not been “up to the task of caring and protecting those who most needed it. It’s a lack of action ... for many years, with a system with unacceptable gaps that require thorough and immediate reform,” she said.
Along with the injection this year of $3.7 million to improve the infrastructure and living conditions at the centers, the Chilean government is forecasting the transfer of properties, in coordination with the National Assets Ministry.
Along those lines, Santiago is contemplating the division of the current Service into two new institutions – the Adolescent Penal Responsibility Service, to be a part of the Justice Ministry; and the Childhood Protection Service, a part of the Social Development Ministry – an initiative that was being pushed in 2012 by then-President Sebastian Piñera’s administration.
To date, being housed at the Sename centers are children who have been abandoned by, or removed from, their parents along with others who have committed assorted crimes, a situation that has been criticized by different organizations and political representatives.
“We’re making a commitment and taking immediate actions to take charge of the need for protection of each child and teenager making up part of the Sename network,” said Bachelet.
Finally, the government emphasized that the Budget 2017 bill included a 6.3 percent increase in the National Children’s Service budget, allocating about 16.5 billion pesos ($24.8 million) extra to improve its operation.