Children’s Authority: Assessing care home staff can boost safety

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Children’s Authority head office in Port of Spain. File photo/Roger Jacob

ACTING deputy director (legal and regulatory services) of the Children’s Authority Elizabeth Lewis says doing psychometric assessments of staff at children’s homes mandatory is currently being reviewed.

This, she said, will assist with preventing abuse at these homes.

She was speaking at a joint select committee of Parliament on human rights, equality and diversity on Friday morning.

Chairman of the committee Dr Muhammed Yunus Ibrahim said it seemed that “bare minimum” was being done when it comes to the evaluation of children’s home staff.

He said instances of children being abused are “psychological crimes which follow cycles.

“Are we breaking the cycle, or are we missing something by not exploring all workers who tend to children, and their homes and pasts and their records? Are we missing something here?”

He suggested staff members should be required to undergo psychological evaluation.

Lewis said workers at children’s homes usually come from the general public and the most common reason given when they are asked why they want to work there is: “I love children.”

“We delve deeper. There are a number of things that are happening, and of course, there are a number of things that need to happen in relation to the staff that go into children’s homes to ensure we are getting the best possible persons to minimise any possible abuse of children.”

She said certificates of character are already mandatory for staff, who will also be extensively interviewed and have a background check done on them.

She said she would like to see Ibrahim’s suggestion “rolled out in the homes to add an additional layer to ensure (they) are getting the right persons.

“That certainly is something that we are looking into.”

However, she said, there is a cost attached to such evaluations, averaging the cost of one psychometric assessment at $1,500.

“Certainly there is more that can be done,” she said.

She added that the authority is reviewing the regulations for children’s homes to lead to a review of standards and benchmarks.