Despite a three-month extension, some children’s homes will fail to make the July 1 deadline for licensure and will be automatically shut down by law.
As a result of this, plans are being made to find alternative locations for the wards of the state at three of 13 unlicensed homes who have indicated they will be unable to meet the requirements and are opting out of the process.
Guardian Media was also told that plans are also being made to relocate the St Jude’s Home for Girls from its current location in Belmont.
Initially, the unlicensed homes were told to have their licences in hand by March 31 or they would face closure. However, a three-month extension was given by Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy to 13 facilities. At that time, Webster-Roy said it would not be in the best interest of the 214 children at these facilities to remove them from a familiar space, given that these locations were very near qualification for their licences
The facilities that were given the extensions were the St Jude’s School for Girls, St Mary’s Children’s Home, Mary Care Centre, Lady Hochoy Home, the Transitional Home for Migrant Girls, Casa De Corazon, Jairah/Raffa House, Ferndean’s Place, Chickland Children’s Home, Joshua Home for Boys, Cyril Ross Nursery, Operation Smile and Marian House.
Yesterday, Minister Webster-Roy confirmed to Guardian Media that there will be no further extension beyond July 1.
“We are working in collaboration with the Children’s Authority and the various homes to prepare them, there are already some homes that would have signalled that they will not be ready and not be a part of the process,” she said.
Guardian Media requested from the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) a list of the facilities which will be shut down after July 1, when the Government will proclaim sections 3(1), 2 and 17 of the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act. This law will make it illegal for any unlicenced facility to be in operation or have children in its care.
However, the CATT failed to provide specifics and instead stated, “At this time, there are ten children’s homes working assiduously to obtain licensure. The authority has been collaborating with other ministries and agencies to support these homes, in the final stages of the process towards licensure. The authority continues to closely monitor all children’s homes in their provision of optimal care to the residents.”
When asked what will happen to the children in the three homes who have given up on the process and the others who may not make the deadline, the CATT said, “The authority has also been seeking to reintegrate children with their families or provide alternative placement options, where possible, appropriate and in the best interest of the child.”
That question was also put to Minister Webster-Roy, who added that foster care, the kinship programme and relocation to licenced facilities are also viable options.
Neither the Minister nor the CATT could provide an exact number of children who would be affected.
However, Minister Webster-Roy also revealed that the St Jude’s Home for Girls in Belmont will not make the July 1 deadline.
Yesterday, the home’s manager, Deoraj Sookdeo, said a fire on April 29 on the second floor of a main building at the facility had set them back greatly. But Sookdeo said a proposed change in location could save the day.
“They have been looking at relocation, that has been the thrust of the ministry, to relocate to a facility that is more suitable for licensure, the girls continue to be here, and we are hoping to meet the deadline before the July 1 date of proclamation,” Sookdeo explained.
With the deadline looming, Sookdeo said he is hoping the state finds a location soon. He said he anticipates that within two weeks, they will have a clearer idea as to their future location.
In October 2022, Minister Webster-Roy first announced to Guardian Media that plans to shut down the home’s Belmont location were underway, with the search for a new site ongoing.
Meanwhile, Sookdeo sought to remind Guardian Media that at least sixty per cent of his population are children in need of supervision (CHINS) and their care should fall under the authority of the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service.
“That ministry does not even have a place for boys as yet, so far less for the girls, such a facility has not been established yet and that’s why those girls are still with us, so I don’t know at the ministerial level where that process is,” Deoraj said.
Guardian Media attempted to get a response from Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings, but he did not respond to our questions.