The Children’s Authority has shut down operations of the Family First Foundation for Children.
In a statement issued Monday under the heading "Children’s Authority investigates operations of Tobago Home", the Authority said, "The home’s manager has also been notified that she is not authorised to receive any child into her care at this time and failure to comply will lead to the initiation of legal proceedings.”
"Over the past few months, the Authority has been monitoring the operations of the home, as reports were received regarding the standard of care provided to the children. On Friday, the home which is situated in Tobago was destroyed by fire. The children who were resident at the home were relocated," the Authority said.
The Authority said it was collaborating with social workers attached to the Tobago House of Assembly's (THA) Department of Health, Wellness and Family Development to ensure the safety of the children who resided at the home.
“The Authority is legally mandated to license and monitor all children’s homes in Trinidad and Tobago,” the statement reminded.
Following the fire which gutted the home last Friday, Allan Stewart, Director of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) told Newsday Tobago nine children - five boys and four girls, including a three-month old baby and three-year-old twins - were reported as residents of the Home located in Calder Hall.
He said the children were being housed by a resident who volunteered to accommodate them. TEMA has made available mattresses, clothing, food items and toiletries, Stewart said.
“There were no injuries during the fire. Five boys and four girls including the caretaker of the home were affected,” he said.
In an interview with Newsday Tobago, Merle Hercules,70, who said she was founder of the Home, said she was grateful that no one was injured in the fire, and that at the time, she was at the Home with two of the children.
She said she was visited by Secretary for Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, Marslyn Melville-Jack and was also contacted by officials from the Children’s Authority and Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister.