Harrowing Images Emerge of Foster Children Behind Bars

Daily Mail (London), July 17, 2014

Youths freed from a refuse-strewn boarding house by Mexican federal police were sexually abused and held to ransom by staff, say relatives and officials.

Parents said they tried to remove their children from the Casa de la Gran Familia in Zamora, Michoacan, western Mexico, but were met with demands for thousands of dollars for their release.

And authorities said residents, including children, told them they were forced into having sex with workers at the home, beaten, starved and locked in a small cell as punishment for rule breaking.

Bars

Ten of the residents were so malnourished police couldn’t even determine their age.

Mainly poor parents and other relatives gathered outside the home last night as a truck hauled away about 20 tons of rubbish from what authorities said was an insect-infested shelter that had housed 607 adults and children.

InteriorYard

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Mexican federal police swooped on La Casa de la Gran Familia on Tuesday, after parents filed complaints with authorities because they were being stopped form seeing their children.

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The police raid freed six babies under three, 154 girls, 278 boys, 50 women and 109 men who officials said were kept in deplorable conditions, fed rotten food and forced to sleep on the floor among rats, ticks and fleas.

Nine employees of the shelter, which acted as a foster home of sorts, have been detained and are being questioned.

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Prosecutors said early statements given by residents described sexual abuse, beatings, hunger and filth in a once well-regarded group home.

Some were forced into sex by shelter employees and others told of being locked in a tiny punishment room without food or water, officials said.

‘Victim No. 4 said she had been held in the group home against her will since she was 18,’ said Tomas Zeron, federal chief of criminal investigations.

‘She was sexually abused by one of the administrators, and got pregnant as a result of the abuse. The same person beat her to cause an abortion, beating her in the stomach on several occasions.’

Two boys told investigators a male staff member had forced them to engage in oral sex and warned one of the boys that ‘he would kill him and sell his organs if he refused,’ said Mr Zeron.

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Authorities have said the shelter had been highly regarded and the government sometimes gave money or even entrusted children to the shelter.

It was often visited by politicians, and local media published photographs of the owner with former President Vicente Fox, former Michoacan Governor Leonel Godoy and other officials.

Mr Murillo Karam said the home was subject to government oversight, but the ‘institution’s prestige may have made the inspections less intense.’

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