Children's Authority meets St Jude's staff after assaults

Children’s Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin. -
Children’s Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin. -

CAREGIVERS at the St Jude’s Home for Girls say they are not confident that anything will come of reports of violence against them by girls at the institution.

On two separate occasions, caregivers were physically assaulted by the girls. The first attack happened on December 31, when a staff member was beaten on the head with a fan and had a bottle of lotion poured on her head. She was also hit in the face with a bottle of petroleum jelly.

That victim was given four days sick leave and returned to work complaining of headaches. The caregivers said the girls became irate after they were denied leave to view fireworks on New Year's Eve.

The second victim was beaten on the head with a toilet tank cover on January 8. The woman was praying, a report said, when she was hit twice in the head.

While she was being attended to by two girls, four others managed to take her keys and escape the home by jumping over a perimeter wall. Two were recaptured that day while two others remain on the run. One of the girls on the run had been brought to St Jude’s earlier that very day.

Both attacks happened at night. Both victims worked alone caring for some 15-20 girls with varying reasons for being at the home and varying criminal cases pending.

Following Newsday’s report of the assault last Wednesday, officials from the Children’s Authority met with staff last Friday to address their concerns. Hanif Benjamin, chairman of the Children’s Authority told Newsday on Tuesday that there were ongoing meetings with the staff and other “stakeholders.”

Benjamin said he would be meeting again with staff as well as the board of directors at the home with police and government officials. The home falls under the purview of the Division of Gender and Children Affairs headed by Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy. The ministry falls under the Office of the Prime Minister.

Benjamin said they are “making strides” and are working on solutions both long and short term but chose not to disclose those solutions.

His assurances, though, have not comforted staff who told Newsday that the last meeting seemed geared towards the children and not the concerns of the staff. Their main concern they said is a lack of accountability for the girls who they said “can get away with murder.”

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