Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy is appealing to parents who have children languishing in orphanages to renounce their rights and allow them to be adopted. Webster-Roy said parents who prefer to leave their children in an institution and wait on them to succeed in life were acting selfishly.
Speaking at the opening of the Children's Authority Tobago Regional Office and Assessment Centre last Friday, she said, "I’m calling on parents who have sons and daughters in homes, and you know you really don’t care, you know you have no intention of claiming that child, please allow that boy or girl to be adopted. We have a number of men and women in TT willing, ready and able to adopt and we have children available for adoption.”
Webster-Roy, who is also Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, added, "We have a number of children living in homes, and I would have listened to the (Children's Authority) director and chairman (Hanif Benjamin) encouraging persons to become foster care (parents), but I want to make the appeal to those parents who have children languishing in homes – children who are ripe and ready to be adopted and to be embraced in the home of a loving parent, but for selfish reasons some parents in TT prefer to have their children reside in an institutional setting, holding on to that boy or girl for the long term with hopes that they will grow up into something good, and mind you, that is selfish.”
Webster-Roy said although she was pleased with the opening of the centre, she wondered whether the country is doing enough to care for its children.
“While I’m happy we have a number of assessment centres in TT, as a mother, as a woman and as a human being, I’m also saddened by the fact that TT must consistently provide spaces for children. It is an indictment on us as citizens. Every centre we open, yes, it’s a plus to say government can put systems and facilities in place – but what does it say about us as people, parents, as aunts, uncles, as cousins? What does it say about us as a nation to the world?”
However, she described the event as a milestone and reminded employees at the authority's assessment centres that their job was about more than a salary.
“This is a calling; it’s about helping us secure a safer and better TT for all of us. So if you come here with the intention of having a fancy job with a fancy paycheque, then leave. But if you came here with the intention of impacting lives, then stay and work with us. Any child entering the facility must not remain the same, especially after their reaction with the people who work here.”
Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe also called on families to do more to keep children safe.
“We as a people must do better to protect our young people and children so they can flourish in a healthy space and environment. Imagine these cases were not reported or not made (public), there would be a lot of children living in fear.
"I congratulate the Children’s Authority for investing its time and resources in ensuring our children live a life free from violence and fear and for the opening of this office in Tobago. I am pleased with the work the authority is doing to transform the lives of our nation’s children, especially those who are vulnerable and at risk of abuse and maltreatment.”
In 2017 the authority's annual report indicated 12,000 cases of children needing care and protection and over 4,000 cases of child abuse and ill-treatment during that year. Cudjoe is optimistic cases of incest and abuse can now be reduced on the island and believes children will now feel safer coming forward with reports, knowing instant help is available.
“There was once a time in this country where children didn’t feel free to run to their parents, teachers or even social services here in TT. I think (the) Children’s Authority has provided a first-responder organisation for children and parents as it relates to the necessary awareness and education."