PM on abuse in children’s homes: Who abuses a child in care?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE Prime Minister expressed his revulsion at individuals who perpetrated abuses on children in care, commenting on a recent report of a Cabinet-appointed committee under retired Justice Judith Jones into sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children by staff and security guards at children’s homes nationwide.

Dr Rowley was speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

“Who abuses an unfortunate child who finds himself or herself as a ward of the State in a home funded by the State, funded by the taxpayer, and all you could find to do is to abuse that child? Who is that?”

He said it was far more expensive to look after a child in the care system than to help a needy family.

Newsday asked if the report’s complaints about security guards sexually abusing children were being dealt with urgently.

“If you are able to say that, then clearly that is a matter for the police. If any individual has so exposed him or herself to be identified in that way – whether it is security guard, or cook or butler or caretaker – if you have done anything where there is evidence that you have done that to a child, I expect that the police will be dealing with that.”

Rowley expected the report’s recommendations to be acted on.

“We are acting upon them. Some are already being acted upon, some we are preparing to act upon. But we have not let the issue fall through the cracks.”

Newsday asked if it was too reactive to simply await individual police reports, instead of being proactive against a decades-old issue say by having a Children’s Ombudsman.

Rowley replied, “As we seek to rectify what shortcomings exist, we are being reactive because it exists and we are to react to it. But we are also doing a number of things that are proactive.

“But you must remember the environment, by its very nature, creates opportunities for the kinds of wrongdoings that have come to light by the investigators. That unfortunately is (also) true in the household in some instances.

“To be proactive, you try not to have the kind of environment in which this can happen. If you have the environment, you become more sensitive and more careful in monitoring it, to ensure that abuse does not permeate in the environment on a permanent basis.”

Regarding abuse in households or children’s homes, he said, “If there is wrongdoing, we fall back on the police to take action.”

Earlier Rowley said the objectives of the report had been met. He said the Task Force will submit its report within six weeks. Rowley rejected suggestions unlicensed homes be defunded, saying the Government cannot stop feeding the children within.

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath in a later statement accused Rowley of “a weak and feeble series of excuses” over the running of children’s homes, 46 per cent of which were unlicensed by the Children’s Authority. He said the Opposition has long called for a National Commission on Children and Children’s Ombudsman, with a bolstered Child Protection Unit and Children’s Authority.

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