Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Poor monitoring at CDA, says Monroe Ellis

Published:Wednesday | January 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

THE AUDITOR General's Department (AGD) says there is no evidence to show that the Child Development Agency (CDA) was "routinely reviewing" educational materials circulated in children's homes.

This finding, which was contained in the AGD's latest report to Parliament, comes nearly six months after The Gleaner first reported on the introduction of a sex education course in six privately run children's homes.

In addition, it was among several examples of lax oversight and poor monitoring of both private and state-run children's homes by the agency entrusted to provide a stable and nurturing living environment for children in need of care.

DUTY TO CONDUCT REVIEWS

Section 15 of the Childcare and Protection Act [Children's Homes Regulations 2007] makes it the responsibility of children's homes to get ministerial approval for the educational programmes they implement. It also makes it the responsibility of CDA monitoring officers, during their routine visits, to conduct a review and assessment of these courses to ensure they are in line with what was approved by the minister and to report any substantial deviation.

However, the AGD said between 2011 and last year, it reviewed 142 monitoring checklists from 20 childcare facilities and found no indication in 113 cases that CDA officers had conducted any assessments or reviews of the educational programmes at these facilities.

'Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health Responsibly' was the title of a pilot programme implemented in six privately run children's homes by Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), which triggered an avalanche of criticisms from groups opposed to the contents.

There are 57 childcare facilities islandwide - 48 privately operated and nine state-run - and the AGD noted that the six CDA officers assigned to monitor these homes all possessed the relevant qualifications, experience, and competence to undertake their tasks.

However, the watchdog agency said its analysis of the CDA's monitoring forms showed that some officers were not making the required number of visits to state-run children's homes.

It said that in 2011, monitoring officers made 80 of the targeted 128 visits, or 63 per cent, to eight state-operated childcare facilities. By 2012 and 2013, the AGD noted, those numbers increased to 83 and 91 per cent, respectively.

"We observed major improvements in the number of visits," the report observed.

The AGD also reported that at the time of its audit, 35 of the 48 privately run children's homes were operating without the required licences for periods of up to two years.