UWI, Children’s Authority boost collaboration

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister – ANGELO MARCELLE

THE University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine will train a cohort of about 100 staff of the Children’s Authority, while in turn the authority will allow UWI students to gain from practical exposure by way of work placements. This was agreed in two agreements signed on Monday between the two organisations, as witnessed by Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister for Gender and Child Development in the Office of the Prime Minister, at the UWI campus.

It comes after UWI has trained about 100 staff of children’s residential homes.

Authority director/CEO Sheldon Cyrus quoted the adage “It takes a village to raise a child” to urged community support to parents towards their children. He marvelled at the many children requiring support from the authority and its partners. He hailed the authority’s dedicated staff.

Cyrus said the authority’s work was much more than removing (at risk) children.

“What is not seen is the work being done to rehabilitate children and reunite families.

“Our aim is to return children to their families but that is only where possible, appropriate and in the best interest of the child. It is not an overnight process.”

Saying the authority deeply values its partner agencies in the child protection sphere, he said he was glad for the signing ceremony for research, staff development/training, and social intervention.

“No single agency can fully address the problem of child abuse, and effective collaboration is essential to the well being and protection of children in TT.

“Child abuse is a dark cloud hanging over our heads. However we all have the capacity to create a safer environment for our children to grow .”

He urged anyone suspecting any case of child abuse/maltreatment to report it to the authority at 996 or the police at 999.

Dr Talia Esnard, head of the Department of Behavioural Sciences, said the MOU was an extension of a first agreement signed on May 8 to train 100 child care facilitators for three months in a period ending this week. These staff had gained knowledge, skills, preparedness and sensitivity to matters regarding the care and protection of TT’s children. “These workers have also gained access to networks, systems of supports and opportunities to better their duty of care and professional selves. This is a work in process, which must be sustained and adapted over time.”

Esnard said the other agreement was for on the job training for UWI’s post graduate students (as interns, volunteers or practicum field placement students.)

She later told Newsday UWI’s new programme would start and the old programme would have its graduation both in late September.

UWI, St Augustine deputy principal Prof Indar Ramnarine, said the partnership matched UWI’s thrust to be an activist university working for social justice and being agents of change. “Together we are not talking about change; We are enacting it.”

Children’s Authority chairman Dr Carol Logie said UWI’s training for child care staff was targeted and specialised.

It would boost their coping mechanisms, so as to be better able to respond to children’s needs. She wanted to better protect and rehabilitate children, safeguard them from abuse and strengthen families and communities. The programme could set standards in TT, she said, amid an current dearth of training for child protection workers.

Webster-Roy said the collaboration would expose UWI students to real-life experiences, while giving authority staff training in best practice and evidence-based approaches. She diverted from her prepared text to advocate for children in need by quoting advice she recently got from her own 11 year old son. “Give someone a fair chance, and have someone believe in them.” The minister said her ideal TT was one where there was no longer any need for a Children’s Authority, where no boy or girl was ever abused or neglected. Webster-Roy said regarding child welfare, the Government cannot do it all alone but needed all hands on deck. “We need parents to parent.” She also said help in this regard was available from a range of public agencies.

Thanking staff at her ministry and at the authority, she said, “It may seem like it is taking a long time, but positive change is happening.”