BYisrael: THA wants all community residences ‘top of the line’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Faith BYisrael – THA

THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael said her division is working to ensure all children’s homes on the island are “top of the line.”

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy recently laid a report in Parliament which highlighted allegations of physical and sexual abuse at children’s homes in TT. It also addressed the inability of the Children’s Authority to protect children from abuse.

The report was the result of a five-month investigation from a Cabinet-appointed team led by retired Appeal Court judge Justice Judith Jones.

On Tuesday, BYisrael told Newsday her division was still reviewing the report but has been addressing the issue.

BYisrael said, “We have not reviewed the entire document, but the division had begun our review and improvement process before the report came out. The division is working to ensure that in time all community residents in Tobago are top of the line.”

A Tobago representative, she said, has also been assigned to work with a task force charged with implementing recommendations to better protect and care for children at care facilities.

Minority Leader Kelvon Morris told Newsday he is still in the process of reviewing the document.

According to the report, two of the three children’s homes in Tobago are licensed.

The three homes are the Community Residence, Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development Probation Hostel and Sylphil Home in Love. The latter is unlicensed.

Among the recommendations in the report include a redesign of the Children’s Authority; the development of clear standards for people interacting with children; the standardisation of critical reports at community residences; the maintenance of a caregiver-to-child ratio at these residences; training for security staff in dealing with children; and the establishment of a children’s commissioner.

The Division of Gender and Child Affairs said $126,081,715 will be allocated to expedite the projects required.

The joint task force consists of officials from the Division of Gender and Child Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service, the Children’s Authority, the Tobago House of Assembly and two members of the investigation team.

The task force held its first meeting last Tuesday and will be expected to submit a completed work plan to the Cabinet within six weeks.