Gov't tackles sexual abuse in children's homes
State increasing psychosocial analysis for wardsTuesday, May 04, 2021
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
GOVERNMENT is looking to provide children in State care with increased access to psychosocial analysis as part of its plans to combat sexual abuse among them.
Robert Morgan, minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information, made mention of plans to reform Maxfield Park Children's Home into a “therapeutic centre” for wards which, he said, should help to reduce or prevent the long-standing issue bedevilling children's homes.
Morgan, who believes psychosocial analysis is required early on when placing a child in State care, noted that the assessment is used to ascertain the level of trauma a child has faced, if any, and to determine where that child is placed.
“We cannot put certain children with certain children. Let's say you have a young girl whose only issue is that she was in need of care and protection; her parents abandoned her and she doesn't have anywhere to go. And then you have another child who has been sexualised or has been sexually groomed and is sexually active. If you put those two children in the same environment together, without strong supervision, you might have a situation where one sexualises the other,” said Morgan.
“We need to have a better ability to analyse and check all these children who are coming into the system as well as provide them with consistent intervention to transform them from what caused them to be in the system,” he added.
The reformation of Maxfield Park is expected to cost the Government $120 million, the Jamaica Observer was told, and work is slated to begin in the coming weeks.
Morgan was speaking during last Friday's Jamaica Observer Press Club at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in St Andrew just before Child Month activities got under way across the island.
He said, too, that specialised homes are being looked at by Government to deal with the issue, among others.
On Sunday the Observer spoke with a former caregiver who was assigned to two girls' homes in the Corporate Area about the prevalence of sexual abuse among wards.
The caregiver, who spoke on condition that she would not be named, explained that in most instances it was “less of sexual abuse and more of full-blown relationships”.
She told the Observer, that while there were “a few” cases in which older girls had sexualised younger girls and had “taken them on as their girlfriends”, her experience at both homes was that it was the younger girls who had approached the older ones.
The former caregiver said she had observed a case in which an 11-year-old girl pursued a 13-year-old girl, and a situation involving a 15-year-old who physically abused another because she had “expressed an interest in her girlfriend”.
“I have had to break up several fights. I have had to remove one from the other's bed. It was just so out there and open. Nobody was hiding and there was nothing you could really do. As the person asked to look after them and as someone who is a Christian, I didn't want to come off as too critical or judging them. I would try to have talks but by 2:00 am when you finally go to bed they end up back in bed or someone is beating down your flat door to say [name omitted] and [name omitted] are fighting,” the woman, who spent almost a decade working at the facilities, said.
Asked what was done to resolve or lessen these incidences, she said the wards were referred to counselling or sent to different homes.
“But that doesn't work, because whenever I would ask, 'How did it [counselling] go?' They would say, 'Miss, mi naah tell nobody my business fi dem use it back pon mi.' So they were just going for going sake. There was a particular case in which we tried to separate two and one attempted to hang herself. So what can you do but talk to them?
“The Government is aware because we had to write reports, but what could they have done? We separated another two by sending one to a different home but she would leave school in the evenings and come here begging to see her girlfriend.
“So it is not a matter of sexual abuse. You do have that, but most of them are in relationships and are unashamed. And once you work at one you've worked at all because it happens with the boys as well,” the former caregiver shared.
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