Casas Hogares Santa Julia and Don Bosco merge
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
In Mexico, according to the INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography), there are 682 orphanages, housing more than 20,000 children. Two of these shelters are in San Miguel de Allende: Casa Hogar Santa Julia—which has merged with Casa Hogar Don Bosco—sheltering 52 girls and Santuario Hogar Guadalupano Mexiquito, which houses 27 boys.
These organizations survive thanks to the support of donors and volunteers and are not governmental institutions. After the merging of casas Santa Julia and Don Bosco, some benefactors and volunteers decided to leave the organizations because “they could not understand the main and true objective of the project.” Nevertheless, Casa Hogar Don Bosco did not disappear; it is growing and evolving by merging with Santa Julia in order to reduce expenses.
Houses with history
Mother Lidia Miranda, director of the “new” Casa Hogar Santa Julia Don Bosco, told Atención that this shelter for girls is administrated by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, who are part of the congregation founded in the 13th century by St. Francis of Guzman. On September 8, 1949, after an invitation from Father José Mercadillo (who was the parish priest at the parroquia of St. Michael the Archangel and director of the house of exercises at the Shrine of Jesús de Nazarene in Atotonilco), the religious order was formed here.
According to Mother Miranda, Father Mercadillo several times found abandoned children in landfills or other areas and was concerned about who was going to take care of them, so he founded the Casa Hogar at the Santuario de Atotonilco. The children (boys and girls) lived there in facilities next to the convent.
Later, a board interested in taking care of the children was formed and offered to lend two houses at calle Sollano 14 (for boys) and 16 (for girls) to move the children to a proper house.
In 1978, Father José Guadalupe Mojica had a space for sheltering abandoned children and asked for help from the Dominican Sisters, who accepted the challenge and moved the boys to the Santuario Hogar Guadalupano Mexiquito. With more space, the youngest girls were moved to Sollano 16 and the older ones stayed on at Sollano 14. A few years later, the owners of Sollano 16 asked for their house back, so the children had to be moved again, but a benefactor offered the current facilities in Colonia Santa Julia on November 6, 1999.
The Dominican Sisters had the idea of sheltering the younger girls in Santa Julia and the older ones in the house on Sollano, but when the girls were being moved to Sollano they resisted because they missed their protective environment. For that reason both houses started taking in both younger and older girls, mainly from the state DIF (Department for Integral Family Development) but also from other parts of the country. Sister Lidia Miranda told Atención they realized that they were duplicating work, expenses and energy, and for that reason they decided to merge the shelters.
How do the girls end up at the house?
Several girls have been brought by mothers or fathers who cannot take care of them for some reason. “We always accept the girls in this house, but if the parents say that they are bringing their daughter because she is rebellious, we have to reject her because the parents ought to take care of, love and educate their children. This is not a house to punish the children; this is a refuge where the girls are going to be protected,” said the sister.
The girls currently living in the house, and those who have lived there, were brought because their parents broke the law and are behind bars, the parents passed away or because they were abused in some way. The girls are channeled to the house by the Procuraduría de Justicia (General Attorney’s Office), by the state DIF. The destination of the girls will depend on which house has room for them.
In this house there is a rule that sisters who arrive together are not separated because “they have suffered many losses: they lost their parents, their house, their environment, and we do not want them to suffer the loss of their sisters,” said the nun.
In this house, according to Lidia Miranda, there will always be room; if they do not have a bed, there is enough space to offer a safe place for the girl to stay, even if she has to sleep in a hallway, a living room or an office for few days until they can find a bed for her. She highlighted that the girl will be in a safe place and will not suffer as she was suffering outside. All the 52 girls are sponsored by donors, so they are enrolled in different schools from kindergarten to university.
The Dominican mother also commented that the house does not receive financial support from the government, not even from the different DIFs that send the girls there.
Sometimes, she said, they form agreements with the DIF, which commits to offering psychological and health care for the girls, milk or other products; nevertheless the agreements do not last more than three years because of the changes of administrations (every three years).
The director commented that some DIFs are very committed and they bring milk monthly, but there are others that sign an agreement but after several months have not brought anything. “And we cannot deny food to the children,” she said.
Yearly, the national DIF conducts 240 interviews of Mexican couples and grants 27 adoptions. They also respond to 120 requests from foreigners and grant 20 adoptions.
An occupation for the future
Mother Lidia also said that after the merger the children of Casa Santa Julia are learning to cook because they must be prepared and have an occupation for the future. They also take guitar and painting classes, and soon they will start a chorus.
Sister Miranda also remarked that the houses must be a place of transition for the girls, and they should not stay there for long terms, because to create a true identity they need a real family.
She emphasized that “if the DIF knows that the parents do not have the physical, financial or emotional ability to take care of the children and also knows that it is not safe to return the children to the original family, they must speed up the adoption process.”
The adoption process
According to the website of the national DIF, they have the objective of ensuring the correct and prompt integration of children sheltered in casas hogares with their biological or an adoptive family. The DIF also has the responsibility of dealing with cases of adoption as well as severing parental rights so the children can be adopted.
In the national DIF, the process to adopt a child can last from eight months to one year and is completely free. The adoptive parents must prove that they are honorable, and must be 17 years older than the child that they hope to adopt. Those interested must pass several tests, including economic and psychological ones.
The adoptive parents can select the gender of the child but cannot see them and choose one personally.
Once the adoption is granted, the children cannot be returned, because they have the same rights as a couple’s biological children. In our netx edition read and article on how to adopt a child through the local DIF.
The municipal DIF is located on San Antonio Abad at the corner of Insurgentes. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am– 4pm (152-0910, firstname.lastname@example.org). National DIF, Zapata 340, Santa Cruz Atoyac, 03310, México DF (553- 0032-200).