«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