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RADHICA DE SILVA

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Amid concerns of inadequate surveillance at children’s homes and orphanages, the Children’s Authority says it does monthly and bi-monthly checks at all community residences.

This came after an ex-resident from a home in South Trinidad said the Authority is sometimes hoodwinked into believing that everything was up to mark in community residences when this was not the case.

Responding to questions posed by Guardian Media, the Authority said the Licensing and Monitoring Unit of the Children’s Authority is in charge of ensuring that all residences are up to par.

When incidents of abuse arise, investigations are also done by the Child Protection Unit.

A senior official at the Authority said as part of this monitoring, discussions are held with the children.

“The children are assigned a Children’s Services Associate (CSA) who will conduct periodic monitoring visits where interviews are held separately with the child and staff of the Home,” the official added.

“Allegations of abuse are investigated by a multi-unit team of the Children’s Authority. This team comprises members of the Licensing and Monitoring Unit, the Investigations Unit and the Child and Family Services Unit. Individual interviews are done with residents, staff and management of the community residence,” the official revealed.

A review of documentation, inclusive of files and logs, is also done.

Surveillance of key areas of the compound is also done as part of the investigations.

“In some cases, depending on the nature of the allegations, the investigation is done in collaboration with the Child Protection Unit. A psychologist is also present to provide debriefing services to the residents and to assist with the interviews, as needed,” the source added.

Once the investigation is completed, the Licensing and Monitoring Unit follows up with the community residences to discuss the findings, recommendations and actions to be taken.

“Based on the findings of the investigations the Authority may decide to transfer the child to another place of safety if that is deemed to be in the best interest of the child,” the Authority official said.

While investigations can take over a month, there is also monitoring in the post-investigation period.

“The Licensing and Monitoring Unit continues to conduct monitoring via announced and unannounced visits. After every visit, the findings are discussed with the manager who then signs the monitoring form. The Child and Family Services Unit also monitors the wellbeing of individual children assigned to the Unit for case management,” the official added.

Last month a teenaged mother complained that her baby was being starved at a community residence in South Trinidad. She said that she was forced to feed her baby lime bud tea for three days. However, this was refuted by a patron of the home who said this was a blatant lie. The Authority later launched an investigation into the allegations. However, the source said it could not divulge any details of the investigation because of client confidentiality.

What the Act says

The Children’s Authority Act, 2000 gives the Authority the power to monitor community residences and to issue, suspend or revoke a community residence licence. There are twenty-three (23) Standards aimed at improving child care and protection in community residences. The four core areas of the Standards are:

• Safety and Security: These Standards speak to keeping children safe from harm. They entail providing a safe and secure environment for children and meeting their nutritional and dietary requirements.

• Quality of Care: This Standard refers to the quality of care that is to be provided at the community residence. Criteria include, but are not limited to, the rights of a child, health and wellbeing, individual and personalised care, relationship with caregivers, parents, family and community, reintegration into society and preparation for adulthood.

• Management and Organisation: These Standards speak to children benefiting from a stable well-managed community residence. This includes the development and implementation of policies and procedures, staff organisation, and the proper maintenance of children’s records and financials.

• Premises: This Standard speaks to the maintenance of suitable and adequate facilities for children.