The Board of the St Mary’ Children Home is expected to meet on Monday to discuss the latest claims of sexual abuse at the Tacarigua based home.
This follows claims by at least 19 wards ranging in ages from four to 14 that they were abused by older residents of the home. The alleged victims, 14 boys and five girls, have been placed at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital .
An investigation has been launched at the Tacarigua-based St Mary’s Children’s Home into claims of sexual abuse by 19 of its residents. The children, who are wards of the State between the ages of four and 14, told social workers assigned to the Children’s Authority the alleged perpetrators are other wards whose ages range between 12 and 17.
The alleged victims, 14 boys and five girls, were yesterday taken to the San Fernando Teaching Hospital where doctors examined them. The arrangements were made after members of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) visited the institution on Thursday.
The children are expected to be moved to safe houses after they have been seen by doctors. They will be placed under the care and supervision of the Children’s Authority pending the outcome of the investigation.
A source revealed that one of the alleged victims confided in a relative about what was taking place at the home and the relative made a report to members of the Children’s Authority. This led to several social workers being assigned to the home to interview the children.
The social workers were told the incidences of sexual assault have been happening for sometime with the last one taking place on Thursday. The five boys said they were assaulted by male inmates who have also confessed to being similarly assaulted by other inmates in the past.
The girls initially appeared to be very secretive about the acts allegedly committed against them but they were convinced to speak out.
Cheryl Moses, the Children Authority’s communications manager, yesterday responded to questions emailed to her by Newsday about its intervention at the home.
“The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is currently investigating reports it has received,” Moses said.
“As is customary, once the Authority receives a report, the investigation process is initiated, as in this case. The investigations are continuing and the Authority will work assiduously to secure any children found to be in need of care and protection, in order to determine what interventions would be appropriate in the best interest of each child.”
Assistant Superintendent Beverly Paul-Rodriguez of the CPU confirmed the unit was told about the allegations. Paul-Rodriguez said the unit has had reports from the home in the past, but this is the first time it has been informed of such a large number of children complaining about sexual abuse at that institution.
“It is not a nice feeling because these children are victims twice,” she said referring to the fact the children were placed at the home as wards of the State. She believes there are not enough checks and balances at some children’s homes and there are several lapses in proper supervision. Paul-Rodriguez said the unit will be working closely with the Children’s Authority in this particular investigation.
ACP in charge of crime Irwin Hackshaw yesterday echoed her views. He said the report of alleged sexual abuse against the 19 children was brought to his attention and he is closely monitoring the development of the investigation.
He assured, the police through the Child Protection Unit will continue to do its part in protecting children and other persons from predators. He advised any member of the public who has information on suspected sexual abuse against children to report the matter to any police officer in the area in which they live.
In 2010, former Social Development minister Dr Glen Ramadharsingh said, “The St Mary’s Children’s Home in Tacarigua will be continuously monitored.” That same year, a committee established to look into mental, physical and sexual abuse of children at the home found nothing substantive to support allegations of abuse.
The former government had promised legislation to protect wards at children’s home and people at homes for the aged.
The St. Mary’s home has always been co-educational with the Anglican Church, in collaboration with the Government, administering its affairs. The Bishop of Trinidad has always been the chairman of the board of management, ably assisted by other social workers. But there has been a changing face of the building where many children call their home. Among the children who are taken there are those whose parents have been afflicted by drug abuse and are unable to provide for them. There are children who have been placed there after being abandoned, or physically or sexually abused.
Attempts to reach Anglican Bishop Claude Berkeley proved futile as calls to his cell phone went unanswered.