On December 5, 2013 Buckner made history through the leadership of Claudia Leon Vergara, Director of Buckner-Peru, for the children Peru and vulnerable children across Latin America. In Mid-November of this year, Claudia was invited by the Commission of Women of Peru including ten members of Peru’s Congress to present the Foster Care Program begun in 2007. Upon hearing Claudia’s presentation, the members of the Peruvian Congress who heard Claudia speak decided to elevate this issue and recommend it for debate and official vote to make Foster Care part of the legal code.
On December 5, 2013 the Peruvian Congress convened with 79 of the 120 members of Congress in attendance to debate and vote on this issue as presented by Congresswoman Aurelia Tan. After a presentation and some discussion, the Congress of Peru voted unanimously to make Foster Care, as proposed by Buckner, part of the official legal code of Peru.
Claudia began this work in 2007 in Peru with a Memo of Understanding between Buckner International and the Peruvian Government with the first children placed in 2008. Prior to this program, vulnerable children in Peru lacked protection, prevention of abandonment, and had limited rights. They were routinely sent to orphanages staying an average of 5 years, many until age 18. When Claudia joined Buckner-Peru she used her background as a lawyer to change the law to provide Foster Care as a permanent and regulated solution to protect children from institutionalization and to provide homes for children through Foster Care. Since we began this program in Peru, 44 children have been placed in Foster Homes.
Once this model began in Peru, Claudia began to receive invitations to lecture and train on this topic in Argentina (2008), Honduras and Guatemala (2010), Guyana (2012), Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Mexico (2013) potentially impacting the future of vulnerable children in these countries too.
The Foster Care legal code approved on December 5, 2013 will provide stability and assurance that Foster Care will be available to vulnerable children regardless of the change of the political party elected to office. The new law is the best way to ensure children’s right are protected and it raises the potential for children to be placed into Foster Homes rather than in institutional care.
In 2013 Claudia published Acogimiento Familiar: Developed Experience of INABIF and Buckner-Peru for the Guarantee and Right of Children and Youth to Live in Families. This publication was a collaborative effort between Buckner-Peru, the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and INABIF (National Integral Program for the Well Being of Families). She is working on an implementation manual for Foster Care to expand her book on the subject. Congratulations to Claudia and her team for her valiant efforts, faithful leadership, and example of the legacy of Dr. Robert Cooke Buckner, Founder of Buckner, who personally shaped and developed the Child Labor Laws of the United States of America in the early 1900s.