Webster-Roy: We prefer fostering, adoption over children’s homes

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

MINISTER in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy said her ministry and the Children’s Authority both prefer for children to be placed with foster families and to be adopted rather than put in children’s homes.

During Friday’s sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath had asked if the Government had any plans to extract children at risk in children’s homes where cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse were revealed in a recent report by a committee under retired Justice Judith Jones.

Padarath asked if the Government has any alternative accommodation for children who still remained in homes which he dubbed “havens for rape, abuse and murder” and who needed to be extracted from that situation.

Webster-Roy said the Government’s and Children’s Authority’s philosophy was not to put children in children’s homes, but to instead try to identity foster homes and options for adoption. “It is not ideal situation to be in homes.”

Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin asked if children who had been harmed in homes had received counselling.

Energy Minister Stuart Young, a Minister in the OPM, said the report had not identified any individuals.

He said the practice is that Children’s Authority staff immediately move in to homes to extract any particular child who is at risk. Young said that for the Opposition to say such children were just left neglected was not true.

Padarath asked the purpose of a $22 million extra allocation to the Children’s Authority.

Webster-Roy said it would pay staff gratuities, fees, services and other things. She said the authority has 270 staff plus 63 independent service providers, adding, “They intend to continue recruiting.”

Padarath asked if any of the report’s recommendations would be acted on by way of $23 million in fresh funding.

Webster-Roy said a task force was now looking at report’s recommendations and Children’s Authority was looking at restructuring. She said the money was primarily to cover “outstanding matters.”

Padarath lamented, “Once again we see the understaffing and under-resourcing of the Children’s Authority.”

He asked how many at-risk children been extracted from children’s homes.

Committee chairman, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George, disallowed the query by saying the committee was simply debating a financial allocation. Padarath complained in vain that Webster-Roy had raised the issue.

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