Monday 18th February, 2008


Overdue Children’s Authority by year’s end

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Minister of Social Development Amery Browne is assuring that the long-overdue Children’s Authority will be fully functional before the end of the year.

The Minister’s assurance comes in the wake of several accusations levelled at the Government for its failure to implement the Children’s Authority Act, which has been in limbo for seven years.

The original act, which was passed in October 2000, contains more than 40 clauses.

In an interview with the Guardian after Parliament’s sitting on Friday, Browne said the Amendment Bill of 2008 was in preparation.

“The bill will amend the act and put in place legislation for the establishment of a functioning Children’s Authority in T&T.”

Browne admitted the Children’s Authority Act was “incomplete and insufficient,” which he said was why T&T had been witnessing an upsurge in child abuse cases.

“There have been calls by various NGOs and sectors of society, for some time, for this package of child legislation. And as the new Minister of Social Development, I am committed to doing this in the shortest space of time,” said Browne.

“A lot of work has been done by social workers who have intervened in cases of suspected child abuse, and many of these children have been placed in safe homes.”

Questioned about the criteria used in placing children in these so-called “safe” homes and the allegations of child abuse reported at various children’s institutions across the country, he said:

“One of the roles of the Children’s Authority is to monitor and evaluate all community residences, foster homes and nurseries, and to license these homes under the Children’s Authority Act.”

The Children’s Authority Act sets out to act as the guardian of the nation’s children. It calls on the authority to investigate complaints and reports of mistreatment of children under 18.

Supporting legislation for the effective operation of a Children’s Authority include the following:

* the Children’s Bill;

* the International Adoption Bill;

* the Family Court (amendment) Bill, 2007;

* the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Homes and Nurseries Bill; and,

* the Status of Children Bill. —MM

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