What's the good news, Ms Webster-Roy?

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy.  -
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy. -

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy called on the media on Thursday to stop focusing on "the negatives" regarding children's homes.

Ms Webster-Roy lamented the media's role in the perception that the Children's Authority hasn't done enough to protect children.

But clearly the authority has more to do to fulfil its mandate.

After five children escaped from one of the authority's safe houses and two of them were murdered, there was understandable concern about the capacity of the organisation, which was created to "establish and maintain places of safety, assessment and support centres, and reception centres" for children as part of its scope.

Even before the Children's Authority was legally empowered to act on cases of abuse in 2020, the agency was inundated by reports.

In October 2019, former chairman of the authority Hanif Benjamin noted that the child protection agency had received 50,000 calls and recorded 21,000 cases of abuse for its review.

Some did not survive. In February 2020, Mukeisha Maynard, just eight years old, was beaten to death by her father with a cutlass for wetting her bed before killing himself.

The role of the media is to report the facts of these incidents, not to whitewash them.

The earliest incarnation of the Children's Authority should not be the same organisation in 2023.

There is more than enough for its officers and officials to be sadder and wiser about, so it isn't surprising that there are continuing concerns about the delays in taking decisive action on the 13 children's homes that did not meet the minimum requirements mandated by law for the care of the 230 children in their charge.

Ms Webster-Roy's reassurances of improvements are unquestionably well-intentioned and sincere, but what matters to those children is what the Children's Authority does to protect them.

In her ministerial role, she is well informed of the issues that have plagued unsatisfactory children's home for years.

In June 2022, she noted that between 2020 and May 2022, 345 matters involving children's homes were reported to the authority. Of those, 197 were described as critical incidents, 34 of which were suspected cases of child abuse.

By then, Ms Webster-Roy had received the report by retired judge Judith Jones which surveyed in troubling detail the scale and range of the problems facing children in community residences.

She is well aware of the problems that children face in poorly managed homes and her ultimate reassurance to vulnerable children is to ensure that the law is enforced in June on non-compliant homes, and that the authority commits to monitor the safety of all children in community residences more rigorously.


"What’s the good news, Ms Webster-Roy?"

More in this section