THA Health Secretary: Children’s Authority right to close Sylphil Home

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael, centre, with Children’s Authority deputy director Elizabeth Lewis, left, and Tobago co-ordinator, Sharon Bradshaw, after a meeting at the division, Scarborough in March. –

THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael has said the Children’s Authority was well within its rights to shut down the Sylphil Home In Love in Lambeau, Tobago.

On Friday, the authority issued a statement saying it had refused the home’s application for licence.

It 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.”

The authority said the move to cease operations at the Sylphil Home is consistent with its efforts to ensure the best interest and overall welfare of children in care.”

In response, the home’s manager and matron Susan Phillips-Jack told Newsday the matter was “in the hands of my lawyers.”

Phillips-Jack insisted the home, which she has managed since 1995, was no “fly-by-night operation.”

But speaking to Newsday on Saturday, BYisrael said the Children’s Authority acted appropriately in shutting down the Sylphil Home in Love.

“The actions taken by the Children’s Authority as it relates to the Sylphil Home in Love falls within their responsibilities,” she said.

“As a nation, we must do all that we can to protect children, and in particular to protect vulnerable children.”

BYisrael, a public health practitioner by profession, said the division will continue to work closely with the Children’s Authority, community residences and all other stakeholders “to ensure that our most vulnerable are indeed protected.”

She said Section 5 (1) of the Children’s Authority Act is clear. The organisation is responsible for providing care, protection and rehabilitation of children as well as investigating complaints made by any person with respect to any child who is in the care of a community residence, foster home or nursery.

BYisrael added under the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act 2000, the authority is required to investigate complaints or reports of mistreatment of children, monitor community residences, foster homes and nurseries and conduct periodic reviews to determine their compliance to prescribed requirements.

She said under this act, the authority can also issue, suspend and revoke licences of community residences.

The authority, in its statement on Friday, 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.”

The Sylphil Home in Love was not licenced but received a stipend from the Tobago House of Assembly.

The two other children’s homes in Tobago – Community Residence and Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development Probation Hostel – were licensed.

Last month, a report laid in the Parliament alleged child abuse at various homes in Trinidad and Tobago.

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

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