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Disciplinary hearings to be held in CDA's handling of wards at Sunshine facility

Published:Wednesday | December 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Disciplinary hearings are to be held into the conduct or actions of a group of Child Development Agency (CDA) officers who acted inappropriately and breached the rights of children at the Sunshine Child Care Facility in St Catherine, triggering a scathing response from Youth Minister Lisa Hanna who described their actions as "callous".

Speaking on RJR's 'Beyond the Headlines' yesterday, Hanna said she has also submitted the report of the investigation into the conduct of the CDA concerning wards of the state to the attorney general and the Public Service Commission for advice.

"From top to bottom, let the chips fall where they may," charged Hanna, noting that investigations would take place across the board of all persons involved in the case.

In a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday, the youth minister said she had convened a task force of three persons to rigorously examine the systems that govern the monitoring, protocols and reporting structures as well as the placement and removal of children in the child-protection sector.

SYSTEM UNDER REVIEW

"I have asked them to make the necessary recommendations so that our systems and procedures are improved to reinforce the appropriate culture necessary for child protection. The task force is chaired by Mrs Sharon Lake, former chairman of the Women's Leadership Initiative and a part of the Xerox corporate management, and herself a foster parent. I will have this report by the end of February 2016," Hanna said.

Hanna said it was unacceptable that officers of the CDA could have acted in such "a callous manner, especially to wards of the State," said Hanna. "I am particularly aggrieved that given our repeated instructions that every child in state care should be treated as our own. It is unforgivable that an officer of the CDA could have reportedly said in front of the children who were crying, that they [the caregivers] should not get too attached to these children [because they are in and out]."

Hanna's statement comes in the wake of the tabling of a report in Parliament by the Children's Advocate, which was received by the youth ministry on November 23.

The report pointed to breaches under the Child Care and Protection Act, which left the children's advocate to conclude that the CDA blundered in the manner in which it carried out its duties.

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said some representatives from the CDA came across as "uncaring, unsympathetic and inappropriately placed to deal with children and their vulnerabilities".

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com