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Friday 23 March 2018

Where’s my son?

A woman yesterday expressed concern for the fate of her son whose whereabouts remain unknown after he was moved from a children’s home following reports of abuse by another child.

The woman told Sunday Newsday that about one month ago, her nineyear- old son was taken by the Children’s Authority from the children’s home in Mt Lambert, where he lived for the past two years.

She said the Children’s Authority asked her to sign a document for her son’s removal from the home but she refused since she was comfortable with her son’s care at the home and with the people working there.

She claimed the Authority told her that her son was being sexually abused by an 11-year-old boy at the home and presented her with a court summons concerning his welfare.

However, she said, a day or two later, her son was moved from the home without her knowledge. Since then, she said she has called the home several times to find out the location of her son, but it seemed the home received no response from the Authority. However, a manager at the home said that after several requests for information, the Authority explained that they had conducted assessments of several children and found the woman’s son was suitable to be put into a foster home in Chaguanas where he would have one-on-one attention.

According to the manager, the most recent request for information was made because the boy’s 14-year-old sister, who also resides at the home, wanted to see her brother for his birthday, which was on Wednesday.

“Removing him from the home like that wasn’t nice. Two days’ notice was not enough for him to say goodbye to us all to get used to the idea. No matter the situation, the Children’s Authority could do better in transitioning the children,” the manager said.

She noted the woman often visited her children at the home and called almost every day to check on them.

She added that both mother and daughter were upset about the situation, and expressed concern that the boy was also experiencing separation anxiety.

When Sunday Newsday contacted the Children’s Authority regarding its processes when dealing with the removal of a child from a Home, it explained that under the Children’s Authority Act, it is mandated to “investigate complaints made by any person with respect to any child who is in the care of a community residence, foster home or nursery.” If complaints were substantiated, the child would be deemed to be “a child in need of care and protection,” and the Authority would determine which interventions were necessary in the child’s best interest.

Depending on the circumstances and the child’s needs, this could mean the child’s removal from the Home, and the Authority would seek an appropriate order from the Court to facilitate the placement of the child in a “safe and appropriate environment.” Although the Authority has the power to remove a child from a Children’s Home if the child was deemed to be in “imminent danger,” it still attempts to inform the parents. However, in many cases, it was difficult to locate them. “Notice of the move, which is given, is usually determined based on the particular child in question where the following factors are considered: the child’s stage of development, age, past trauma and experience,” the Authority explained.

“The philosophy of the Authority is to promote family reintegration, and placement with the child’s family/ close relative is amongst the first options. Attempts are then made to contact the child’s parents during the investigations and assessment. If the Authority is unable to contact the parent and the child has to be placed in alternative care, for instance Foster Care, the Authority would make an application to the Court for a Foster Care Order in accordance with Section 25(1) of the Children’s Authority Act… “The child’s parents are usually formally joined as parties to the proceedings.

At the hearing, all the parties, including the parents, are engaged before a final decision is made with respect to the future care of the child,” it continued.

The Authority stated that, while it was not mandatory, it had facilitated about 100 supervised visits between children and family members as its philosophy was to maintain the children’s family ties.

Despite this, the Authority stressed that suitable placement options for children continued to be a problem in the country, mainly because of funding. It noted that only 16 of the 45 Children’s Homes currently in operation receive a subvention from the State. The other 29 were privately funded.


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