Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Children who suffered gut-wrenching physical and sexual assault at home are sometimes sent back to the place of torment by the State.

However, this is only done after the Children’s Authority confirms that the abuser is no longer there and is not a threat to their safety.

But Gender and Child Affairs Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy says abused children who cannot stay with their family will have more placement options very soon.

Responding to questions posed by Guardian Media about the shortage of accommodation for abused children, Minister Webster-Roy said the government is addressing accommodation needs by preparing additional places and building partnerships with the private and state sector for programme delivery.

“These include but is not limited to the model home for boys using the St Michaels Facilities; drug rehabilitation facilitation for boys and girls who are impacted by drugs and require residential care and or daycare away from school,” Webster-Roy said.

She also said the Ministry of Health has provided a few more spaces to treat children with mental health challenges at Mount Hope.

“We are also encouraging the private homes to expand capacity within the National Standards for care and to focus on certain children to meet the demand,” she said.

“It should be noted two new private children’s homes came into the system recently, and the government has started making the payments,” she added.

With regards to the construction of proper facilities, Webster-Roy said, “The construction of the transition home for girls commenced, and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) is considering the refurbishment of three more buildings for use by boys in addition to the first transition home that was established.”

She noted that the OPM continues to explore partnerships to ensure that these and other areas of the care and protection system for children are adequately met.

“ We have a bit of a delay with COVID, but we are continuing,” she said.

She reiterated that the government’s policy is aligned to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is guided by the ‘best interest of the child’ philosophy.

“Children have a right to a family, and every effort should be made to have children placed and kept in their family, and that family receive the necessary support, be it psychosocial or otherwise, for the longterm success of the reintegration. Where this is not possible, then every effort must be made to place them in a family through foster care and adoption,” she said.

Noting that September is national foster care and adoption month, Webster- Roy urged more families to open their hearts and homes to children in need.”

She further explained that the Roadmap to Recovery identifies additional incentives which are being addressed to encourage private sector involvement in the care of children.

“It also dictates a close working relationship with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to ensure that children remain within their families with various forms of psychosocial and financial support which promotes independent living in the long term with little or no dependence on the State,” she added.

Last week officials from the Children’s Authority told Guardian Media that a lack of placement options was one of the main challenges it faced.

The Authority said this was related in particular to “children who require specialised care, those with mental health needs, extreme behavioural challenges, such as Children in Need of Supervision and children who are approaching 18 years who are transitioning out of the care system.”

Explaining why the Authority sometimes returned abused children to their homes, the official said, “The Authority’s decision-making process is guided by the best interests of the child. There may be instances where abuse has occurred in the home of origin but the alleged perpetrator is no longer present in the home, therefore the child can be returned to the non-offending relative with monitoring.”

Monitoring is usually done every month.

“In other instances, if the allegations of abuse are deemed unsubstantiated after an investigation and where there are no other child protection concerns, the Authority would have no evidence to justify the continued alternative placement of the child and the child may be returned to the home of origin with special programmes to address their behaviour. Persons are also disciplined or removed from Homes where they are found to be the perpetrator of the abuse,” the Authority said.

Getting the child back into a family environment is important.

“ The ultimate goal is to provide a child with a family-based placement,” the Authority said, noting “in some cases, reintegration into the family of origin is deemed appropriate and in the best interest of the child,” the official added.

Urging citizens to engage in foster care, the Authority said it was interested in increasing its pool of foster carers.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer may contact the Foster Care Unit at 627-0748 ext. 40988, 40342 or 40345 or email [email protected]