By Trudy Simpson, Staff Reporter
THE REPORT on children's homes and places of safety promises to be disturbing, but the Government says it will not flinch in addressing recommendations to deal with the problems affecting the wards.
"There are of course some disturbing things in the report... but we need to take the report seriously and deal with the matters arising," Information Minister Bur-chell Whiteman said yesterday.
The report, which was presented to Cabinet yesterday, is expected to be tabled in Parliament today.
While refusing to disclose actual findings and recommendations, Minister of Health John Junor said the report was divided into broad categories, covering areas relating to appropriate staff, the law, various procedures, the overhaul of the Juvenile Act, intake procedures of children and the valuation of persons in care, treatment modalities and the structure of the new Child Development Agency (CDA).
"There is nothing that hasn't been out in public before," Mr. Junor said. "Nobody is going to, in any way, negate the fact that abuses did happen but what we have to do is look at what systems do you put in place and what penalties. Those are the recommendations and that is where I want to focus."
He said officials have to confront societal behaviours which lead to children becoming state wards.
"Most of them come in already exposed to more than any child should be exposed to. I would hope that this report is about challenging a society to take a greater responsibility because institutional care cannot be the answer to dealing with children," he said.
He added that "what we ought to be doing is preventing them coming into institutional care because we have family structures and home environments which are best suited to deal with them. Where the state homes do come in, what we offer at best are mostly, the correct measures and evaluation, counselling etcetera and care that they need."
Health Ministry sources say the report will raise key issues such as the training and recruitment of appropriate staff for children's homes and places of safety.
The review was commissioned in January by Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, who established a four-member committee to look into the operations and structure of children's homes and places of safety. This followed allegations of child sexual, physical and emotional abuse, bestiality and other wrong doings which were taking place in state institutions.
The report was originally due in March and has been delayed three times.
At yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Minister Whiteman said the review would be tabled in the House of Representatives today and that a press conference will be held at the Ministry of Health on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.
The four-member committee, manned by Sadie Keating, a retired permanent secretary, was asked to assess the procedures for intake evaluation and placement of children in care and to make recommendations for improvement; determine the support systems necessary to address behavioural problems exhibited by children in care; ascertain the functionality of the children's homes in Jamaica determined by factors such as - staff, child ratio, level of education accessed, environmental conditions and preparation for final separation from care, among other things.
Other committee members are Dr. Pauline Milbourn, Child Psychiatrist, Rosemary Neale-Irving, Senior Resident Magistrate and Judge of the Family Court for Kingston and St. Andrew and Maureen Webber, a development consultant.