Sun | Aug 20, 2017

From 'paradise' to place of harrassment, a ward pleads for help

Published:Wednesday | December 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

One female ward of the Sunshine Child Care Facility in St Catherine, who had resisted attempts by the Child Development Agency (CDA) to relocate her to another place of safety in Spanish Town, said she suffered the indignity of being sexually harassed by other wards at the facility.

In her report of investigation into the conduct of the CDA concerning wards of the state, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said a former ward of Sunshine told her that she did not want to be placed at the other St Catherine facility.

However, she claimed she was not given the opportunity to make an input in deciding the new place of safety to which she was transferred by the CDA.

A 15-year-old with the initials T.B. gave compelling and disturbing evidence to the children's advocate about the situation that obtains within the bathroom at the place she was relocated to by the CDA.

WATCHED WHILE BATHING

She said the bathrooms did not have shower curtains and other female wards come into the bathroom to watch her while she was bathing.

The apparently traumatised teen told Gordon Harrison that the other wards told her that they liked her body.

"Like they would stand and, say, they look on your vagina, your breasts and your bottom, how them like it. I have to tell them that I am not a lesbian and I have to speak up for myself," T.B. told the children's advocate.

When asked if she had mentioned this encounter to the staff of the Spanish Town facility, T.B. said, "Some of the staff them don't business with the children because the children them curse bad word after the staff them and them don't business 'bout them."

In sharp contrast, many wards told Gordon Harrison that Sunshine was like a "paradise where the aunties treat you like children".

"Them don't bark after you like a dog or so," one said.

The Sunshine wards also spoke of the significant role that the Gilgal Holiness Church family played in their lives.

Thirty-four wards of Sunshine were removed from that facility in February to other places of safety after the owner of the home was given an eviction notice.

However, the CDA has come under fire for the manner in which the relocation exercise was conducted by its staff.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com