Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, has said staff who have been identified as culprits in the abuse of children at children’s homes and care centres have been removed from those institutions.
He added that the children have also been “extracted” from these homes for their safety.
The matter was raised during a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) of Parliament yesterday.
“On the receipt of any report, not only the Justice Judith Jones report, the child being in a position where he or she may be in danger, immediately the responsible people in the (Children’s) Authority will move in and deal with that situation and extract the child,” Young said.
“So to try and create a narrative or paint a picture, or even a suggestion that these children are being left there in harm’s way is simply not so.”
When Princes Town MP Barry Padarath sought to find out just how many children were removed from the troubled homes, his question was denied by the chairman of the committee, Bridgid Annisette-George, on the grounds that it did not qualify as part of the work of the SFC.
Moments earlier, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy was asked by Padarath whether alternate arrangements would be made at other facilities for the children who are housed at the homes identified as abusive.
However, the minister said the philosophy of the Government pointed in a different direction.
The St Jude’s Home for Girls.
“The philosophy of the Children’s Authority and the philosophy of this Government is not to put children in institutions, so one of the things we are trying to improve is our kinship care, that is identifying suitable families, improving the foster care system, as well as adoption,” she said.
The Justice Judith Jones report on state-run and state-assisted children’s homes and care centres sent shock waves throughout the population, as it revealed numerous cases of maltreatment at several institutions, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse, gang rape and prostitution.
The 307-page report, titled Safeguarding Children in Community Residences and Child Support Centres in Trinidad and Tobago, was laid in Parliament on April 29, 2022.
Following the discovery, there were calls for firm action to be taken to protect the children at these homes.
Only Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that there was no immediate plan to cut funding or close down any non-compliant children’s homes, even in light of the report. Instead, he said the Government is acting on the recommendations of the committee.
“But we have not let the issue fall through the cracks,” he added.
Currently, there are approximately 580 children in children’s homes across the country.