Five employees have been fired for child abuse at the Es Pinaret, Es Mussol and Son Fusteret Juvenile Detention Centres in the last four years, according to the Council of Social Affairs and Sports.
"We have evidence of five cases in which inappropriate behaviours of workers with minors has been detected, although none of them have had complete sexual relations according to the statements made by the victims," said Fina Santiago.
The first case was detected in 2016, two others in 2018 and the last two in 2019. Two of them were considered very serious actions and the other three as serious.
"Four workers were reported to the Prosecutor's Office and all five were fired," said Fina Santiago. One of the terminations occurred at the end of a contract which was not renewed and in another case the person did not pass the trial period.
In one of the most serious cases, the minor was harassed by an adult worker and in another there was "totally inappropriate" sexual behaviour,” she said. ”The other three cases were for serious sexual behaviour in an educational space, where those responsible had a very clear function to set limits with the children.”
The Minister stressed that the dismissal of these five people is a clear message that "under no circumstances will inappropriate behaviour be allowed by professionals working in the centres managed by the Government.”
Once a misconduct is detected by the professionals, a file is opened, the worker is informed and any evidence is collected. If the violation is classified as serious or very serious, the worker is dismissed and a lawsuit is filed.
“These people will no longer be able to work in government jobs, but without a criminal sentence they will be able to access other employment with minors. Those who work with minors are always asked for criminal records and in some cases crimes have been discovered,” said the Minister.
In the Juvenile Justice Centres there are many young professionals with a degree in Social Education or other qualification, but some have little or no experience of how to care for minors.
“The problem is that we have young people working with other young people whose life experiences are very different," said Minister Santiago, who pointed out that people of any gender or age can work in these centres.
The Balearic Government has three Juvenile Justice Centres which currently have a staff of 101 professionals for between 80 and 85 children.
Almost all 16 cases of minors who were victims of sexual exploitation who were supervised by the Majorca Institute of Social Affairs (IMAS) ended with police arrests and were reported to the Judicial Authorities.
The Unit for Family and Women's Care, or UFAM arrested a raft people in connection with the complaints in 2018 and 2019, who were involved in prostitution schemes.
Due to the seriousness of these cases, the Judge usually decrees maximum secrecy to protect the victims. A small percentage of the complaints filed were not resolved because the information provided by the victims was not enough to identify their alleged perpetrators.
IMAS admitted last Monday that it had detected 16 minors under its guardianship who were victims of sexual exploitation.
“The number of children being abused is increasing and will continue to increase, because society and professionals are now more aware that this type of behaviour exists,” said Director of Infants and Minors, María Ángeles Fernández.
She also said that certain types of behaviour in children should set off alarm bells of possible abuse.
“The symptoms of sexual exploitation are subtle, but when the child fails to comply with schedules, changes his or her look, suddenly has clothes, a mobile ‘phone or jewellery they didn’t have before, it’s often a sign of abuse”, she said.
Specific Master's Degree for Juvenile Justice
The Council of Social Affairs and the University of the Balearic Islands have launched a postgraduate course for people who want to work at Juvenile Reform Centres.
“People must have specific training in the youth field to work in Juvenile Reform Centres and with this Master’s Degree, internships will be available at Government Centres. Working at the Es Pinaret Juvenile Detention Centre is not the same as working in a leisure area,” said Minister Santiago.