In Parliament yesterday, the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s (OCA) “Report on Investigations into the Conduct of the Child Development Agency Concerning Wards of the State: Sunshine Child Care Facility” was tabled by Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna.
The report (see link below) details the OCA’s investigations, findings and recommendations regarding the Child Development Agency’s (CDA) removal of 34 children from a privately operated Place of Safety in February 2015. The children had all “been placed there at the instance of the Child Development Agency.”(p 3)
The investigation included a Hearing which resulted from the Children’s Advocate’s exercise of “her powers as a Judge of the Supreme Court…pursuant to the provisions of the First Schedule to the Child Care and Protection Act.” (p 2) The issues to be determined were:
The details given in the report describe a complete mishandling of the matter by the CDA, a disturbing disregard for the well-being and rights of the children and problematic responses on the part of some CDA personnel to the enquiries by the Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison.
One of the things that I found really troubling reading the report is that so many of the actions and attitudes described are not new. The specifics relate to a particular case, and having all occurred during this one case certainly merited focused investigation by the OCA and action regarding accountability and provisions for the affected children. But these types of actions and approaches by the CDA have been seen before, including:
- failure to prepare children and child care facilities adequately for the removal/transfer of children from one facility/situation to another
- transfer of children with no files or incomplete files
- failure to advise child care facilities of medical/health conditions of incoming children, resulting in improper medical care, sometimes for serious/life-threatening conditions
- transfer of children from one facility/situation to another resulting in disruption of their education
- failure to provide/continue needed counselling for children being transferred from one facility/situation to another
The incidents involving the 34 children at one child care facility may serve to highlight general problems with approaches and practices within the CDA. However, one has to ask whether or not it is the first time that oversight mechanisms – within the CDA, at the level of the Ministry, at the level of the OCA – have picked up on such problems.
There is far more that needs to be questioned about the matters raised within the OCA’s report and about the functioning of the CDA, an agency that has experienced many problems since its inception. I will be interested to see what comes of the task force that has been announced by Minister Hanna and is due to report on certain aspects of the child care and protection systems in February next year.
(The report is on Parliament’s website or is available here: OCA Report re CDA Conduct – Sunshine Child Care Facility Nov 2015.)