In Colombia, around 965,000 children under the age of seventeen are orphaned. Some of these children end under the protective custody of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), a governmental agency that helps orphaned children access housing and other basic care. Many of these children have living family, but they end in protective custody for many reasons, including abandonment or sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation within their own families.
Children exposed to institutional care often suffer from structural neglect, including unfavorable and unstable staffing patterns and social-emotionally inadequate caregiver-child interactions. They live in prison-like conditions, in communal dormitories with bars on the windows and doors, and have extremely limited contact with the outside world.
Most of these children have little hope for adoption because they are considered “old” —more than 6 years old. When they turn 18, they are pushed out of protective custody, in spite of the fact that they lack the resources they need to support themselves and lead productive lives in the outside world. Despite being required, these young people do not receive adequate psychological support or information on how to protect their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In many cases, they get pregnant as soon as they leave protective custody, or contract sexually transmitted infections, or fall victims to gender-based violence, which leads to an inter-generational transmission of poverty, lack of opportunities and the return of their own children to protective custody.
ASCEP’s goal is to help young people who grow up in protective custody —and who have no chances of being adopted— prepare for the challenges of life outside of protection centers, helping them break the inter-generational cycle of institutionalization.
ASCEP was founded in 2017 in Cali, Colombia, by three Afro Colombian youth that lived under ICBF protective custody until they graduated at age 18. Against all odds, they pursued higher education studies and earned degrees in communications, scenic arts, and philosophy. ASCEP is a fully grassroots organization. Its mission is to strengthen and support children and young people without parental care who, like the organization’s founders, have grown under protective custody, have no chances of being adopted and are getting ready to start their lives independently. They do so by:
(1) implementing programs in Cali-based protection centers that focus on two key issues: (a) sexual and reproductive health and rights, and (b) livelihoods.
(2) Partnering with the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and advocating for the improvement of living conditions and development opportunities in protection centers and, more specifically, to make sure that graduates continue to receive ICBF support as they transition into independent living.
EMpower’s third grant to ASCEP will support the organization to replicate its two most important programs in two different protection centers located in Cali, reaching a larger number of girls and young women. ASCEP will replicate its sexual and reproductive health and rights program in a new girls-only protection center located in Cali, helping 41 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 strengthen their ability to protect their sexual and reproductive health and rights, adopt more gender equitable attitudes, and identify and regulate their emotions. In addition, ASCEP will replicate a different program, focused on promoting alternative family models among institutionalized young people, at another protection center, also based in Cali, equipping 44 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 with the skills to establish positive relationships with their peers, caretakers and parents, should they have them. Girls from both protection centers will develop the basic life skills that they need to be prepared for independent living upon graduation from institutional care. Finally, ASCEP will train 20 caretakers from the two protection centers in their support models, to guarantee the sustainability of these initiatives and improve the quality of programming for girls in institutional care across Cali.
Primary Location: Cali, Colombia
Funded Since: 2020
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