Do what is needed to save our children now /

«Sheep spend their lives afraid of the wolf but in the end, it is the shep­herd that eats them.» The words of Robert Sab­ga, the man who chaired the 1997 com­mit­tee that in­ves­ti­gat­ed ten chil­dren’s homes in T&T. The in­ves­tiga­tive team Sab­ga head­ed found «an en­dem­ic kick­back sys­tem» and un­li­censed homes with no ap­proval for op­er­a­tion still re­ceiv­ing State sub­ven­tions.

Even more star­tling is that 25 years af­ter that re­port was sub­mit­ted, one of those homes is still op­er­at­ing and from re­cent in­for­ma­tion in the pub­lic do­main, is still un­li­censed and still re­ceiv­ing sub­ven­tions.

It is in­deed a wor­ri­some sit­u­a­tion that un­li­censed homes con­tin­ue to ben­e­fit from state fund­ing with what ap­pears to be lit­tle or no over­sight. It is time that the prob­lem is fixed.

The state of these homes over decades and abuse at these fa­cil­i­ties of the chil­dren, who are to­day adults, should be cause for con­cern for every right-think­ing cit­i­zen. It is hard to be­lieve tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars are used to fa­cil­i­tate such heinous acts against chil­dren, even while there ap­pears to be no prop­er over­sight at these homes.

This news­pa­per was the first to re­port on the Robert Sab­ga re­port in Jan­u­ary, when Sab­ga raised ques­tions about the lack of ac­tion and ex­pressed con­cern that some of the same is­sues of two decades ago ex­ist to this day.

How many chil­dren have we failed as a coun­try in the past 25 years and how many have suf­fered be­cause of the state’s fail­ure to act?

Yes­ter­day, the Ro­man Catholic Church an­nounced it was launch­ing its own probe fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tion of the re­cent Jus­tice Ju­dith Jones re­port in­to chil­dren’s homes. Arch­bish­op Ja­son Gor­don said the Church’s in­ves­tiga­tive team will com­prise ex­perts in psy­chol­o­gy, child­care/so­cial work, law and hu­man re­source man­age­ment.

De­clar­ing that «every child is a gift from God and de­serves love and pro­tec­tion from all forms of abuse,» Arch­bish­op Gor­don said the al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the Jones re­port «grieve our hearts and we shall do every­thing we can to bring heal­ing and jus­tice.»

It is time that every re­li­gious and oth­er or­gan­i­sa­tions that run chil­dren’s homes be called to ac­count. They have the fu­ture of this coun­try un­der their care and yet it seems wan­ton abuse un­der their stew­ard­ship goes un­no­ticed and un­pun­ished. Who is guard­ing the guards?

Some of those who com­mit­ted the crimes against chil­dren have died, oth­ers have moved on. The pain and suf­fer­ing re­main in­deli­bly etched on the minds and hearts of those who were abused. Changes must mean that homes fail­ing must lose state fund­ing, must be shut down and any of­fi­cial found cul­pa­ble must face the full brunt of the law.

The abuse in these homes is per­haps one of the worst kept se­crets in this coun­try. How many me­dia re­ports have there been of chil­dren run­ning away—in one case, a child was bru­tal­ly mur­dered af­ter es­cap­ing from one of them. Weren’t those re­ports enough of a wake-up call?

This prob­lem is fix­able but re­quires the po­lit­i­cal will to do it. It is time, there­fore, to stop the hypocrisy and croc­o­dile tears and do what is re­quired to save the in­no­cent chil­dren.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian