Children reported to the Children’s Authority on T&T May 2015 to February 2021
By Sue-Ann Wayow
TRINIDAD and Tobago has too many children being abused, neglected and traumatised in their own homes by people whom they trust.
This was the main point made by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago Director Nichola Harvey-Mitchell on Monday during a virtual press conference as the authority discussed the killing of two teenagers who escaped from a Children’s Authority Support Centre in Valsayn on Sunday.
Harvey said, “As a society, we need to look at this social ill of child abuse. This is a national social issue and we need all persons on board. Your home is supposed to your safe space. When that fundamentals institutions fails, when the persons you trust fail, you don’t know who you are.”
She added that the authority was dealing with more than its initial designated number of children with more than 300 cases monthly and sometimes there was the inability to effectively deal with all of the cases.
The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in a press release on Monday stated that the motive behind the murder of Antoine Francois and Simeon Daniel, both 15-years-old was suspected to be gang warfare. Francois and Daniel escaped from the Support Centre along with another teenager on March 19 and the authority had asked the public for help in finding them.
A third escapee from Children’s Authority Support Centre, who was also in the group, was not injured and was taken into protective custody and Harvey-Mitchell made a personal appeal to him that the Authority was there to support and not condemn.
Harvey-Mitchell said the authority has not failed in its protection of the boys but stated that “the process of healing takes longer.”
She added, “The authority did not fail. It had a gap in the security and supervision at the time the incident occurred.”
She defended staff and management of the authority who she said were properly trained and qualified to handle the type of cases coming into the establishment many of which were severe cases of abuse.
“We continue to do what we are mandated to do despite some of the negative feedback.”
Harvey-Mitchell admitted that more needed to be done in terms of security but the Authority also struggled with not wanting their facilities to look like prison.
She said additional protective bars will have to be placed and an increase in safety and security personnel on compound will be needed.
The Authority needed to also be financially stable apart from Government’s funding and she thanked corporate citizens who stepped up to assist including Republic Bank, First Citizens Bank, Massy and Sagicor.
She said the authority had a strategic plan in place to increase efficiency and that included a volunteerism programme which will begin rolling out this year.
And she made an appeal to all citizens to not condone abuse of children in any way and if parents were struggling to discipline their children, help was provided through the various state agencies.