Recruitment vetting for children’s home staff under review
Man accused of molesting Hanover teen to be questioned today
With several state agencies now under the microscope amid allegations of sexual abuse at a private children’s home, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison is calling for more rigorous background checks on prospective staff.
In the latest incident, which occurred in Hanover on Saturday, a 47-year-old chef is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old disabled child.
The accused has since turned himself over to the police and is set to face a question-and-answer session on Wednesday in the presence of his lawyer, Superintendent Sharon Beeput, the commander for Hanover, confirmed.
According to reports, the 16-year-old female ward was forcibly taken to the back of the premises by the accused and assaulted. Following the alleged incident, the child raised an alarm, sparking an investigation.
Gordon Harrison said that her office was evaluating children’s homes’ routine systems of recruitment and assessment of fitness and suitability of staff at all levels.
“There is always an opportunity to do an assessment as to what obtains now, to see if it is as foolproof as it needs to be,” Gordon Harrison told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
“You do have people who seem to slip through the cracks who are having contact with children but who should not be having such contact.”
Robert Morgan, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, said that an administrative review of the home’s adherence to the terms of its licence and other protocols is under way to determine if the facility was in full compliance.
“Female wards being alone with male caregivers is not supposed to happen, and whenever it happens in a home, it is due to a breakdown of the management,” Morgan told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
“We have a duty as a society to start changing how we see children and the rights of children and protect them from predators who are obviously out there. What we have to continue doing is making the system more robust and more accountable so that no predator can find safety in a childcare facility,” added Morgan.
Like Morgan, Gordon Harrison is calling for strict accountability alongside a strong criminal justice response to such cases.
Rochelle Dixon Gordon, public relations and communications manager at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, said that staff employed to homes are vetted, including reviews of criminal records.