Home in Puerto Rico has been “offering protection for children” in need for 30 years

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For almost 30 years, the Santa Teresita of the Child Jesus Children's Home has been responding to an important issue in Puerto Rico: caring for children who have been neglected or abused.

MELVA ARBELO
Director, Santa Teresita of the Child Jesus Children’s Home

The home was founded in 1994 due to the high rate of child mistreatment in the Arecibo area, where the home is currently located. A group from the community began to have an interest in reducing the abuse in this area. So together with the Catholic Church, a group of the community and the bishop at that time, Iñaki Mallona, who recently died, began the task of turning this dream into a reality.

Director Arbelo cites the country's high poverty rate as a source of this issue. While the problem has persisted for decades, the return to public life following the COVID pandemic led to a renewal in efforts to solve the crisis of child abuse and neglect cases.

MELVA ARBELO
Director, Santa Teresita of the Child Jesus Children’s Home

During the pandemic, as the children were at home, there was no school social worker. There was no parent to help them. So that's when mistreatment was exacerbated in this country— because of the pandemic. When they get to school and people start to see bruises or marks from beatings, that's when they start to speak up.

Arbelo says one of the challenges the Home is currently facing is a law that limits the children's stay in the home to 18 months. She says this is a problem, especially for the children with disabilities or difficult home sutations.

MELVA ARBELO
Director, Santa Teresita of the Child Jesus Children’s Home

I believe that institutions such as this one and other organizations are effective in offering security and protection to these minors. Many of these parents are children of parents who are in drug trafficking, who are in prison, who are on drugs. So the real protection for these children are these institutions.

The director says that the Home depends on the donations of individual people and organizations to continue to provide a home and protection for a better future for these children.

KG

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