Department of Social Rights investigates Albert Benaiges's foster care and adoption records
Teacher and former Barça coach adopted a Brazilian boy in 1996 and fostered minors for brief periods between 2006 and 2014
BarcelonaReactions continue to pour in following ARA's revelation, based on around sixty witnesses' statements, of sexual abuse and humiliation perpetrated by Albert Benaiges at Escola Barcelona. On Saturday, the Education Department announced it was opening an investigation to clarify what happened during Benaiges's 20-year tenure at the school, as well as what mechanisms failed and allowed the abuse and humiliation to continue without the authorities being alerted. This Sunday, it has become known that another investigation by the department of Social Rights is analysing the reception and adoption processes Benaiges undertook between 1993 and 2006.
The department led by Violant Cervera is aware that Benaiges applied for foster care in 1993 and 1994 and that in 1996 he was granted an international adoption. All this, before the Catalan Institute for Fostering and Adoption (ICAA) was founded to centralise this kind of procedures. The Department also has evidence that Benaiges asked to be a foster family in 2006. The request was successful and the then Barça grassroots coach made himself available to the Directorate General for Child and Teenage Care (DGAIA) to foster minors who were under the Generalitat's guardianship for short periods, such as weekends or holiday periods. The Department of Social Rights' records do not include any stays after 2014. Government sources assure ARA that all processes will be reviewed and the government will talk to both the minors involved and staff who participated in the proceedings.
Benaiges adopted and fostered as a single-parent family. In 1996 he managed to adopt Samuel, a Brazilian boy who arrived in Catalonia after the decisive mediation of Eusebio Sacristán and Romário de Souza, two players in Barça's Dream Team whom the then grassroots coach told of his intention to adopt a child. At the time, Benaiges told Mundo Deportivo Eusebio was the one who recommended him to adopt internationally through NGO Ayuda en Acción. So, in mid-1994, he put himself in the hands of Romário and his legal advisor to help him adopt in Brazil. The process was successful and Benaiges travelled to Brazil and stayed with the now ex-footballer until he was able to pick up his son, who lived in a town 200 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro. The child was eight. He is now 33 and works as a chef. Later, Benaiges took in four minors: two African brothers and two more children, one of them Haitian.
Sants and Barça take a step forward
In parallel to the investigations underway in the departments of Education and Social Rights, UE Sants, the club where Benaiges started his coaching career in the world of football, has made a statement: "Given the information of recent days [...], the club condemns and regrets the alleged conduct of Mr. Benaiges, is available to any former player who has suffered any abuse and will support them in the process that the person needs". In the same line, Barça president Joan Laporta has sent a message of support to the victims: "We are with those who suffer injustice and violence. We will not hide. And if we detect any similar case in the club, we will confront it with maximum transparency, always supporting the victims and their families". Laporta also stated that the club is collaborating with the Catalan police to clarify whether Benaiges acted in a similar way in La Masia, Barça's youth academy.