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Nicaraguan NGO Forced to Close Shelters

The Ortega government’s Family Ministry, has relocated nine teen mothers. Casa Alianza hasn’t even been notified where the minors were transferred to

On October 22, the Ministry of the Family, Adolescents and Children (MIFAN) initiated the transfer of nine teen mothers. The mothers and their children, considered at risk, had been housed in a residence operated by the non-profit organization Casa Alianza.

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Two days earlier, the Ministry abruptly ordered the closure of this and another specialized residence run by Casa Alianza. MIFAN alleges that the NGO failed to comply with norms established in the country’s legal framework. They notified Casa Alianza on October 20 that they were proceeding to remove the children and adolescents under “special protection”.

The notification was signed by MIFAN Minister Johana Flores Jimenez. It states that they will cease referring “abandoned and abused children or pregnant teens… who require state foster care”. Casa Alianza operates two residential centers for this population: the Conrad Hilton Residence and the Teen Mothers Residence. Both centers have been ordered to close.

The response from Casa Alianza

Casa Alianza issued a statement noting that on Thursday, October 22, MIFAN began transferring “nine adolescent mothers and their children.” Their guardians at the center were not notified.

“We spoke with the authorities about first advising the teens’ families where [these teens] would be receiving shelter. However, they wouldn’t allow it to be done that way,” the organization’s communique stated.

According to MIFAN, Casa Alianza accepted several teen mothers and babies into the residence without complying with the required mechanisms. However, the organization noted: “these young mothers were in the center with the knowledge of the authorities. Particularly important, they were there with their parents’ consent, since they were minors.”

Casa Alianza’s work

Casa Alianza Nicaragua is part of a program known as Covenant House. “The NGO has been functioning for over 22 years. It has “accompanied thousands of high-risk children and adolescents. It has helped them get off the streets and build a hopeful present and future.”

The organization’s statement stressed that they’d been operating with the government’s full knowledge. Both residences were “under the authorization and supervision of the Family Ministry, the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry.”

Both of the specialized centers employed a model of holistic attention for the child or teen who entered. The center sought and obtained a way to facilitate their social reinsertion. They were given specialized attention in the area of social skills, health, counseling, legal accompaniment and family reintegration.

Government allegations unclear

Notification of the MIFAN decision went to Maria Jose Arguello Ramos, national director of Casa Alianza. The document cites the organization’s failure to comply with responsibilities established in Article 76 of the Children’s and Adolescents’ Code.

The article states that public or private institutions, plus the State, “will provide special attention and protection to children and teens.” The children and teens covered are those “who find themselves in situations of risk.” This group must be “in conditions or circumstances that require special protection.”

“[The problem was noted] during a supervision realized at the Teen Mothers’ Residence in September. We confirmed the admission of teen mother and babies without applying a special protection measure authorized by this ministry. This was in contradiction with the provisions of our current legal framework.”

Umbrella NGO group responds

The Nicaraguan Coordinating Federation of NGOs working with Children and Adolescents (CODENI) expressed their support for Casa Alianza. “For 22 years, they’ve provided special protection, and facilitated the social reinsertion of hundreds of children and adolescents.”

In a statement, CODENI noted that the work of Casa Alianza has brought them national and international recognition. This includes the International “Praesidium” Certification that endorses their work. This Certification recognizes the center as fulfilling all international standards for attending abuse survivors.

“In implementing State Norms, the ‘Superior Interest of the Child’ should prevail. They should avoid altering their physical and emotional stability,” CODENI insisted.

The CODENI statement is clear. “Most of the children and adolescents in the Special Protection Centers come from homes where their rights have been violated. Their families don’t have the skills to protect them from any form of violence. Returning them without a strict process of reconstructing ties and family reunification puts them at risk. Without a guarantee that the situations of violence won’t be repeated, they’re in danger of becoming victims again. They may fall victim to the pandemic of violence that children and adolescents are suffering in the country.”

Casa Alianza intends to continue their work

The initial statement from Casa Alianza indicated they are preparing an appeal with their attorneys. The organization stated they would “seek channels of communication and negotiation” to continue working with the teens and their families.

Beyond the residential program, Casa Alianza offers day and community programs of attention, as well as prevention projects. The organization intends to continue with these programs.

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