Visiting committees planned for children’s homes
-in wake of orphan’s murder Andre Haynes
Stabroek News
March 3, 2003

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The Ministry of Human Services is to establish visiting committees for children’s homes to monitor their activities and ensure the provision of adequate care.

According to Minister of Human Services, Bibi Shadick, this initiative was prompted by the Ministry’s recent findings of inappropriate practices in at least one such institution where cases of child labour and child abuse were unearthed.

These committees are intended to strengthen the work already being done by the Ministry’s Probation and Welfare Department, which has limited staffing. Additionally the committees would serve in a preventative capacity, in the words of the Minister, “for the purpose of keeping people on their toes.”

The Human Services Ministry, through the Probation and Welfare Department is conducting a review of the management and activities of all children’s homes to assess and to improve the quality of care. There are at least nine such institutions which are given subventions by the ministry. The review began last year and was intensified at the start of 2003.

Minister Shadick said that a lone welfare officer during his\her supervisory visit would look specifically at - although not solely - health care and the education being given to children in the custody of these agencies.

The Minister said the formation of the committees was prompted by findings at the Sad’r (Shaheed’s) Boys Orphanage in Kitty following the murder of one of the boys.

“We knew we had to strengthen [our] visiting capacity over the last year. But the idea of visiting committees was triggered by what happened there.”

An investigation into the operations of that institution, led personally by the Minister, uncovered cases of child abuse and child labour, although the institution’s management continue to deny these claims.

“This specific incident had us doing more detailed investigations and [we] found a lot of things that we had not previously looked for. Nobody would have imagined children going through what these boys had been going through.”

Shadick added that the Ministry was unaware whether inappropriate practices were being repeated at other orphanages.

The visiting committees will comprise of volunteers and staff of the Welfare Department, and plans for an orientation session are underway.

She said the visiting teams, comprising of either three or four persons would conduct visits to orphanages once a month or once every two weeks.

Meanwhile the Ministry is yet to set up a management committee to run the Sad’r Boys Orphanage.

The Minister had been working to form the committee after its investigation into the activities of the institution found that the orphanage was not properly run.

Following the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old boy belonging to the orphanage the ministry launched a probe into its management. The former acting Chief Executive Officer of the institution and another man have since been jointly charged for the murder of the boy, Raheem Abdool.

Minister Shadick said she had been informed that implementing any such committee would be against the constitution of the Guyana United Sad’r Islamic Anjuman (GUSIA), the controlling body.

She understood that any committee would have to be set up by the membership of the Anjuman.

Officials of the GUSIA have refuted the Minister’s allegations and maintain that the orphanage is properly run and that systems are in place to ensure the safety and proper care of the boys.

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