Visiting committee established to monitor children’s homes
By Andre Haynes
June 20, 2003
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has established a visiting committee to help prevent abuses and improve the existing conditions at children’s homes and orphanages.
The committee is made up of volunteers who will be aided by administrators of homes and orphanages and it has been created to strengthen the work of the Ministry’s Probation and Welfare Department. This follows discoveries of inappropriate practices in at least two orphanages since the start of the year.
Addressing administrators and volunteers at a coordinating meeting yesterday, the Minister within the Human Services Ministry, Bibi Shadick, said while the committee would have no legal authority, the Welfare Department would act upon its recommendations.
“[We] wanted to find some mechanism to get a better handle on what is going on in orphanages throughout the country,” Shadick said, while adding that it was envisaged that the work of the panel should also improve the conditions in these institutions. Volunteers have been trained by the Ministry and will also work with administrators of homes who have also expressed interest in the work of the committee, although their involvement has yet to be defined.
According to the operational guidelines, homes will be visited unannounced by a team of two volunteers who will assess the institution. Close attention will be paid to discipline, nutrition, education, medical care and the recreation offered to the child.
Guyana has no prescribed guidelines for the management of such institutions, and Shadick said the Welfare Department had its own requirements while institutions submit their codes of conduct for operation. She added that homes were subject to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The visiting committee will meet quarterly and prepare reports of their findings which will be submitted to the Welfare Department.
But Shadick cautioned that in spite of the establishment of the committee, the Welfare Department would not abdicate its responsibilities in respect to the surveillance of these homes.
In an interview with Stabroek News earlier in the year, Minister Shadick had said the work of the department had been hampered by inadequate staffing. After yesterday’s meeting she said the
Ministry had begun filling vacancies in the department.
Meanwhile, the Minister said funding has still not been allocated for the committee and she impressed upon volunteers that the ministry is relying on their social conscience.
The decision to set up the committee was prompted by the Ministry’s probe into the Shaheed’s Boys and Girls Orphanages, where cases of child abuse and child labour were uncovered. A resident of the boy’s orphanage was also found dead on the East Coast and the acting Chief Executive Officer of the home together with another man are now before the court charged with the orphan’s murder. An interim management committee was subsequently appointed by the Supreme Court to manage both institutions.