Only two homes for children in Tobago ae registered with the Children's Authority.
Hanif Benjamin, Chairman of the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
In an interview with Newsday Tobago last Thursday at the Coco Reef Resort in Crown Point, Benjamin said the Tobago Hostel, operated by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), was one of these homes, having recently received its licence from the Authority.
“The Children Authority, under its new Act, is mandated to license, monitor and evaluate all community residences and so the Tobago Hostel has received its license.
“There are two that we are working with and there is another one that the Office of the Prime Minister is supporting to bring on board. There are many other children’s home in Tobago and so we will be working with them to regularise their status to ensure that they are licensed.
“Under the law, once you are operating a children’s home or a community residence, it must be licensed,” he said.
Asked about the November 2017 closure of a children’s home in Calder Hall following a fire at the establishment, Benjamin said investigations were ongoing and information could not be divulge at this time.
“Once you meet the criteria, you can have an operational home. Any person who wants to open a home, any person who wants to bring forward a home, once you meet a certain threshold, then you can have a home licensed and operational.”
The Authority has reported that it has received 253 reports of child abuse in Tobago for May 18, 2015 to May 17, 2017, with most of the reports being of sexual abuse, followed by cases of physical abuse.
“We would be working closely with our allies which would be the Child Protection Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the goal is to continue that relationship as well as expand it,” Benjamin said of investigations into the reports.
Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, Manager of Registry and Investigations at the Authority, who also spoke at the interview, noted reports of child abuse received show a spike during the vacation periods.
“Our data has been and continues to record a high spike in child abuse cases during the vacation periods. So, we are calling on parents, guardians to be vigilant. To the general community we are asking that we all make child abuse our business by reporting it to our hotlines at 996 or 800-2014 or to the Police,” she said.
She also pointed to an issue of under-reporting of child abuse incidents on the island.
“Whilst persons are reporting, what we’ve noticed is also an under-reporting as it relates to the number of abuses taking place. We have been saying that child protection is everyone’s business, so we are calling on parents, guardians and the community to not turn a blind eye to child abuse especially during this vacation period where children are often left unsupervised,” she said.