The board of the St Mary’s Children’s Home yesterday issued a response to allegations that children at the home had been sexually abused by other children there.
Nineteen children who live at the Tacarigua home, aged from four to 14, told staff from the Children’s Authority two weeks ago that they had been abused. They were taken to the San Fernando Teaching Hospital to be examined. They were later returned to the home and were being monitored by social workers from the authority.
In its release, the board said it regretted what it called the “disparaging reports” of the abuse and was awaiting the outcome of the investigations.
Members of the police Child Protection Unit were scheduled to interview the children, five girls and 14 boys, last week. The children said they had been abused by other residents at the home, aged 12 to 17. One of the victims reportedly confided in a relative, who contacted the Children’s Authority.
The board said it was holding discussions with the authority about the children’s being taken to the hospital and the “trauma and negative exposure resulting therefrom.”
It said the staff of the home were all hardworking and committed to the children’s welfare. The support staff, it said, included welfare officers, social workers and caregivers. Since 2013, it said, specialist professional services had been “sourced on a continuing basis in the areas of psychological assessment, trauma counselling and training and development for the children” and a doctor provides weekly services for them.
The release said, “The home has never received any adverse report about the children from any of these personnel.”
The communications manager of the Children’s Authority, Cheryl Moses, had confirmed to Newsday two weeks ago that the authority was investigating the allegations of sexual abuse. Asst Supt Beverly Paul-Rodriguez of the CPU confirmed her unit had been told about the allegations, and said the unit had had similar previous reports from the home, but never on such a scale.
The chairman of the board is Anglican bishop Claude Berkley. The release pointed out that the home has been in existence since 1857, supervised by the Anglican Diocese, and has housed over 2,000 children.
“We continue to provide an environment of stability and care for the children to live as normal a life as possible,” said the release. “It is the expectation that each of the children admitted to the home become responsible citizens upon leaving at age 18.”
The release concluded that the home’s vision was to provide an ideal environment to nurture, care and develop children to reach their full potential so they could contribute to society.
Its mission is to be a model home, “implementing childcare developmental practices through a caring and dedicated team in a supportive environment to the satisfaction of key stakeholders and the community.”