Children’s Authority: Look out for children all year, not just Xmas

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Anjuli Tewari-DeFague –

With Christmas day around the corner, the Children’s Authority has expressed its gratitude to the public and corporate Trinidad and Tobago for stepping up to support children in homes and foster care throughout the country.

However, they are pleading with the national community to look out for the children in their communities throughout the year and not just at Christmas time.

In a phone interview with Newsday on Friday, team lead of the foster care unit Anjuli Tewarie de Fague and ag deputy director of legal and regulatory services Elizabeth Lewis both highlighted the need for communities to be more active in caring for children.

“Child protection is everybody’s business,” said Lewis. “People do a lot of gift-giving, but we want to remind them that it should not just be for Christmas, it should go beyond. Don’t just remember them at Christmas time, but throughout the year.”

She said Christmas is a time when people exercise goodwill. She said the authority would often reach out to members of corporate TT who would not hesitate to provide gifts for the children in their care.

She said the authority has about 85 children in foster care and all the children will receive gifts for Christmas this year after donations by a football club. She said, however, the gift of time can also go a long way.

“Many children are not with their biological families, so it is always important for them to feel that presence of family,” said Tewari de Fague. “We try to recreate the family setting as much as possible for them.”

She said, with regard to foster care, the authority tries to facilitate visits with relatives wherever possible and appropriate.

“We have to be careful during covid19 with restrictions, but we do try to give the children time with their families.”

Lewis said the Children’s Authority depends on the wider community to come forward and support the children in their care.

“Gift giving can also be casting an eye on a child while the parent has to step away.”

She said other than volunteering time, there are ways in which the community can be of service to children.

“You can (informally) adopt a home to work with throughout the year to provide for the children in that home.”

Tewarie de Fague also said a gesture as simple as volunteering to help paint during the Christmas season could go a long way for a family who is struggling for the time and the means to complete simple tasks.

“They could really do with the help to upkeep the home. Right now, we have a lot of people struggling with online schooling. You can volunteer your time to help with lessons.

“Look within your skillset and alert the authority to what you are willing to give.” She also asked that people be kinder and more forgiving. “Some circumstances are beyond the control (of the families) and they are trying their best to get back on track.

“Help our families be better, don’t just chastise and assume the worst of them. Let’s see how we can help families get back on their feet. That is the goal of the authority. We’re not the agency that removes children unnecessarily.”

She also encouraged people to consider foster care.

“Our children are our responsibility as a nation. Not just at Christmas. What’s so important is to consider opening your hearts and homes to foster care (as long as) you have the ability to share your home with a child in need.”

For those interested in volunteering with the Children’s Authority, you can e-mail them at [email protected] or call the office 627-0748. Those interested in learning more about foster care can e-mail [email protected] or call the office at extension 40988.