Covenant House is a Certified Safe Place for Children and Youth
When Covenant House Mexico completed an extensive and complex process of accreditation in child and youth protection this fall, our entire Covenant House federation gained international recognition as a safe place for children and youth to heal from abuse, exploitation, and homelessness.
“The accreditation by Praesidium underscores our standing in favor of children and youth and in the struggle to restore their rights and improve their options for a full life,” notes Arturo Carrillo, a social worker and head of monitoring and evaluation at Covenant House Mexico.
“Above all, it demonstrates Covenant House’s leadership in the prevention and treatment of abuse of all kinds” where children and youth are concerned, he adds.
Praesidium is an international best-practices agency that helps service organizations, like ours, promote and ensure child and youth safety through a rigorous and cyclical certification process that includes proof points and site visits.
Arturo and Lourdes Hernández López, director of the promotion of holistic well-being unit, led the six-month process for Covenant House Mexico, where residents are just 12 to 18 years old (in the U.S. and Canada, residents in our short-term housing program are 16 to 21 years old). The process involved our entire site in Mexico City and our child and youth protection team at Covenant House International (CHI) headquarters.
“Praesidium screens our work across a wide range of areas, from human resources to room checks. They look at our policies, evaluation practices, training schedule and content, feedback, response to incidents, and administration,” says Raquel Segundo, director of child and youth protection at CHI.
The process begins with each site completing a “massive” self-assessment, including proof of policies, methodologies, and measures, Raquel explains. Praesidium then responds with recommendations to further strengthen our practices.
Then there is a site visit, during which a Praesidium officer investigates that all of our measures are as we reported them. If we are unable to complete a particular recommendation, we need to demonstrate to the agency that we are achieving the desired outcome by another means. After certification, the process starts all over again in three years time, with a check-in at one year.
“Our compliance with this detailed process and the Praesidium recommendations demonstrates the highest level of risk prevention,” Raquel notes.
“It certifies that we are an organization that publicly guarantees that our space is free from abuse of every kind and that we keep each and every one of our residents and the former residents with whom we still work safe,” Arturo adds.
“It shows that Covenant House Mexico continues to grow, improving and adopting new processes that benefit our children and youth, and that everyone on staff is imbued with this sense of responsibility and protection.”
But principally, Arturo says, the benefits of our Praesidium certification are felt by the young people who come to us seeking safety, hope and opportunity.
“They know Covenant House is their sanctuary, a place where they can live without fear; where they can be and express themselves exactly as they are without fear of anything or anyone. They know this is a place where they can learn and develop all their skills, a space that teaches them to fight for everything they hope to achieve, and that encourages them to continually set new life goals and objectives.
“But the most important thing,” Arturo says, “is that they know that here they can live out their childhood and adolescence in safety and peace.”