He was speaking with Sunday Newsday during a media conference at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain. His comments were in response to the case of a man who had been arrested on Friday after an allegation that he had sexually assaulted his eight-year-old daughter.
Feeles reported said that after their press conference on Thursday the father, who had complained that his family had no access to the child or word on her welfare for 100 days, was held by police. He recalled that the day before he was held the father called and said the officers were coming to update him on his daughter but he was instead arrested and charged.
Feeles said the Children’s Authority needs to be involved more on the ground and utilise the help of community groups, NGOs and councillors.
“You need sometimes to unite and collaborate before you make decisions like this,” he stressed.
Feeles said there are cases where people have not been provided with access to children and for relatives to ensure they are in good care. He reported in one case a summons was sent to both mother and father and then the child was placed with the mother’s mother and she retained access to her.
“Is not that we against the Children’s Authority. I continue to say that they are essential and they are a necessity. The Children’s Authority and the Child Protection Unit. But they must step up their game. They must be able to respond quickly, they must be equitable, they must be fair and they must also treat with the family where the child is from,” he said.
Councillor for Ben Lomond/ Hardbargain/Williamsville, social worker and community activist Vashti Sookhoo said the father approached her a month ago concerned for his daughter’s safety because he had not seen her for 70 days.
“All attempts for relatives to see the child...proved futile. They weren’t allowing any of them to see the child,” she added.
She said she approached the officers of the Child Protection Unit in Oropouche to see the child to ensure she was alive and well and in the country. She reported the officers promised they would accommodate this request but that never came through.
She said she called on many occasions but they never answered and she returned to the agency but there was no one present. She reported that nothing happened until Friday when the father was held. She said her concern was that counselling had not been provided for the family.
“The Children’s Authority needs to consider and needs to provide counselling for the immediate family,” she stressed.
Sookhoo explained that one morning the three children were going to school but when they returned their sister was no longer with them.
“That is traumatising enough as it is. Then 100 and something days after the father going to work, drop the two boys (aged 10 and 11) to school and then somebody picking them up not knowing where their father is.
That is even more traumatising,” she said. Sookhoo said the situation is compounded by one of the children writing SE A and having dropped from A to B grade student.
“I could only imagine what those children went through (Friday) night (when their father was held),” she said.
She stressed that no counselling was offered to the children and she even offered an organisation that does counselling within proximity of where they were living and provided the telephone numbers and name of the counsellor to the officers of the Children Protection Unit.
“Absolutely nothing was done,” she said