Mon | Oct 2, 2023

Clifton Boys’ Home imposes rigid monitoring, training after abuse scandal

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2022 | 12:08 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
The Rev Sam McCook (left), chairman of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB) Committee; Samantha Charles (second left), CEO of the VM Foundation; and Courtney Campbell (right), CEO, VM Group, present a cheque valued at $750,000 to Vincent Guthrie
The Rev Sam McCook (left), chairman of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB) Committee; Samantha Charles (second left), CEO of the VM Foundation; and Courtney Campbell (right), CEO, VM Group, present a cheque valued at $750,000 to Vincent Guthrie, chairman of Clifton Boys’ Home, towards its Education Intervention Project, which will assist wards academically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were raised through the NLPB’s 42nd staging on January 20, as well as through a donation by the VM Foundation.

Nearly five months after Clifton Boys’ Home was rocked by an abuse scandal, the childcare facility has imposed strict operational standards to guard against a recurrence.

Vincent Guthrie, chairman of the board, disclosed that greater emphasis has been placed on the training of staff and the employment of adequate workers for the care and protection of the 25 boys housed at Clifton.

The monitoring regime has come under increased scrutiny, with the board members and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) conducting scheduled and unannounced visits.

“There are standards of care that have been established by the Government, the CPFSA, and the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica. Our understanding is that these measures have to be upheld, so we are coming in with a clean slate and determined to ensure that caregivers, staff members know the rules and abide by the rules,” Guthrie said in a Gleaner interview on Tuesday.

“We pledge and we endeavour to ensure that what is alleged to have happened wouldn’t take place [again],” he added.

In September 2021, three employees of the Westmoreland-based home were charged in relation to allegations of physical abuse against eight wards at the facility between March 2016 and March 2021. The boys were aged 10 to 17 at the time of the alleged incidents.

The claims included beatings and other types of abuse.

Meanwhile, limited face-to-face classes over the last two years have caused a decline in the academic performance of some boys in the care of Clifton Boys’ Home.

Although not able to offer specific data on the boys’ academic performance since the detection of the coronavirus here in March 2020, Guthrie said that the concern became more apparent in a report last November.

Clifton’s Education Intervention Project, which was developed to tackle the deficit, was boosted on Tuesday with a $750,000 donations derived from offering at the recently held National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB), as well as a contribution from the Victoria Mutual (VM) Foundation.

The cheque handover was made at the offices of NLPB’s lead sponsor, the Victoria Mutual Group, in Half-Way Tree.

Guthrie was very appreciative of the donation.

“This contribution will help us to utilise a number of other resources which donors have made. We have a number of computers. We want the network,” he said.

Guthrie said that the funds from the NLPB donation would be targeting pandemic-induced academic underperformance.

The board chairman emphasised that the boys’ home was committed to expanding its scope beyond mere caregiving to beefing up educational services and training.

Clifton’s Education Intervention Project includes a robust homework programme to complement face-to-face sessions being offered to 25 underage male wards at the Darliston, Westmoreland facility.

Courtney Campbell, CEO of the VM Group, said that he was moved by the belief that the youth beneficiaries would pay forward assistance to similarly vulnerable young men in the future.

He also announced that VM Foundation volunteers would support the home on a Labour Day project.

Samantha Charles, CEO of the VM Foundation, said that the organisation reached out to Clifton because of its commitment to changing the lives of young men who might otherwise be lured into antisocial conduct.

“Ensuring a very sound education for boys can be a preventative measure. We commend the work of the Clifton Boys’ Home and are confident that this project will help to curb this worrying trend,” Charles said.

For his part, Sam McCook, chairman of the NLPB Committee, said it has always been a privilege for the NLPB to partner with the VM Foundation to find ways to alleviate the challenging circumstances facing youth.