Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Letter of the Day: Policy Needed for Movement of Children in State Care

Published:Thursday | December 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM


That the minister of youth, Lisa Hanna, has initiated disciplinary action for the Child Development Agency (CDA) officers who were involved in the movement of wards from the Sunshine Child Care Facility is but a Band-Aid solution to a wider problem that demands a more comprehensive response from the minister.

Children in state care are moved from institution to institution in musical chairs-like fashion almost on a daily basis, and as such the behaviour of the CDA officers, is not surprising; this is a routine part of their job. This practice, however, not only affects the children emotionally, but also disrupts the successful administration of the home.

While the reason for the removal of the wards at Sunshine was not stated, children are moved to other homes mainly because of disruptive behaviour. CDA officers do face a real challenge in that when a child becomes disruptive at one home or a situation arises which creates a concern, they often have to resort to moving the child to another home. This, however, does not solve the problem as the child carries that disruptive behaviour to the new home and ends up being moved around from home to home without any real intervention. This practice must be looked at more closely and proper solutions devised; moving a problem child from one home to the next is not a solution and a policy is urgently needed to address this.

More specifically, to the situation concerning the removal of 34 children from the Sunshine Child Care Facility, the incident points to an issue of inadequate support of privately run children's homes. It is no secret that these homes receive less funding and struggle to shore up numbers for their monthly maintenance claim to the CDA. The placement officer at the CDA, Mr Calvin Matthews, knows this all too well and it is full time that a forensic audit of the maintenance claim process at the CDA be done.

Private homes have become the neglected cousin of the child care system and are used as transit points for disruptive children as they are moved between government-owned homes. This practice puts private homes in a precarious position as it reduces their numbers and thus affects the amount of money they can claim from the CDA. One can only suspect that it is a lack of financial support that led to an eviction notice being issued for the Sunshine home.

The minister herself should have stepped in to provide the assistance needed to either deal with the issues that would have led to the eviction notice or assist in finding a new location for the home. Were this done, the entire situation surrounding the removal of the children could have been avoided. The minister must look more closely at how the CDA can strengthen support, financial and otherwise, for privately run homes.

For the minister to isolate this one case of the Sunshine Care Facility really represents a missed opportunity to sit with the children first of all, the administrators of child care facilities, and CDA officers, to come up with a sensible policy to deal with the disruptive practice of moving children like chequers pieces from one home to another. The minister must dig deeper and take the time to craft a policy which addresses the problem comprehensively rather than providing Band-Aid solutions.

 André N. Poyser