Children’s home shut down in Tobago, manager weighs legal options

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The head office of the Children’s Authority, on Wrightson Road in Port of Spain. –

Manager and matron of the Sylphil Home in Love in Lambeau, Tobago, Susan Phillips-Jack insists that her children’s home is “no fly-by-night operation.”

She made the statement on Friday after the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago issued a release saying it had refused the home’s application for licence and ordered it cease its operations.

The Children’s Authority said, “In accordance with the powers under Section 4 and 5 of the Children’s Community Residences Foster Care and Nurseries Act Chap 46:04, the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has refused the application for licence of the Sylphil Home in Love, Tobago. As a result, the operations of the children’s home have ceased.”

It added, “The move to cease operations at the Sylphil Home is consistent with the authority’s efforts to ensure the best interest and overall welfare of children in care.

The authority said it will continue to advocate for the care, protection and rehabilitation of all children as “we defend and support child rights and make child protection everybody’s business.”

But in a brief interview with Newsday on Friday, Phillips-Jack, who has been managing the children’s home since 1995, said, “I have no comment, except to say that the matter is in the hands of my lawyers.”

Sylphil Home in Love was one of three children’s homes in Tobago, including the Community Residence and Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development Probation Hostel. Sylphil Home in Love was the only one that was unlicensed.

The action against the Sylphil Home in Love came in the wake of a report laid in the Parliament recently alleging child abuse at various children’s homes in the country.

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

It highlighted the inability of the Children’s Authority to protect some children from abuse.

THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael had told Newsday her division was reviewing the report.

In a May interview with Newsday, Phillips-Jack had said there were 12 children at the home, which had catered from newborns up to 17 years old.

She said the children under her watch had become like family.

“These children are here from small, and this is the kind of settings I like. My home is actually for children without parents, and when they come in big we does have real challenges – that is why we don’t want them big.

“So at the end of the day, those that I have here from small, we are here with them like a regular family.”

The youngest resident at the home was 19 months old.

Although unlicensed, the home had received a stipend from the Tobago House of Assembly.

In April, Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for gender and child affairs, said that closure of unlicensed homes was not an option as it would only exacerbate problems.

She said, “For some facilities, the lack of a licence may be for something infrastructural, instead of it not having the right staff-to-resident ratio or anything like that. For some of the facilities, it’s a matter of us trying to address certain infrastructural needs to meet certain codes and guidelines. We are working towards that.

“But the reality is, we have more children in need of placement than we have places.”