Right Steps & Poui Trees


Electricity Disconnected at Walker’s Place of Safety Months Before the Fire

On March 22, 2019, I made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the Office of the Children’s Advocate for the following:

All documents related to any aspect of the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018, the death of the two girls as a result of that fire and any subsequent investigation into the fire or the resulting deaths.

After one extension of time, I received a number of documents last week Friday, May 17, 2019:

1) You will be granted access to copies of the following:
✓Letter from the Jamaica Public Service, regarding the account at 17 Lyndhurst Crescent, dated July 10, 2018;
✓Letter from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency with attached report from the Jamaica Fire Brigade Report dated April 5, 2018;
✓Letter from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency with attached report from the Electricity Division of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology dated March 15, 2018;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Mr. Emanuel Barosa, President and CEO of Jamaica Public Service where he requested certain information dated July 4, 2018;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Ms. Jennifer Williams, Customer Service Manager at the Jamaica Public Service where he requested certain information on the status of electricity on the premises prior to fire dated July 13, June 25 and March 14 2018 ;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Mr. Solomon Burchell, Director of Electricity at the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology dated July 18 and July 5, 2018;
✓ Letters from Mr. Downer to Inspector M. Anderson of the Half Way Tree Police Station regarding the police investigation, July 12, July 10 and July 6 2018;
✓Letter from Mr. Downer to Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police dated July 18, 2018;
✓ Letter from Mr. Downer to Mrs. Rosa-le Gage-Grey Chief Executive Officer, Child Protection and Family Services Agency regarding outstanding JPS bill balance and for the agency to clear that amount dated July 16, 2018;
✓Letter from Mrs. Diahann Gordon Harrison to Mr. Raymond Spencer, Commissioner. Jamaica Fire Brigade requesting a copy of the report dated February 1, 2018..

I was also told that all other documents had been denied:

2) You have been denied access to all other documents due to the nature of these documents and as they are exempt in accordance with Sections 17 and 22 of the ATI Act (2003) and Sections 44 and 45 of the CCPA (2004).

This morning I posted a thread on Twitter, sharing some of the questions and concerns raised by information in these additional documents:

Walker's Thread 20-5-19 1
Walker's Thread 20-5-19 2Walker's Thread 20-5-19 3walker's thread 20-5-19 4Walker's Thread 20-5-19 5Walker's thread 20-5-19 6Walker's thread 20-5-19 7Walker's thread 20-5-19 8Walker's thread 20-5-19 9Walker's thread 20-5-19 10Walker's thread 20-5-19 11Walker's thread 20-5-19 12Walker's thread 20-5-19 13Walker's thread 20-5-19 14Walker's thread 20-5-19 15Walker's thread 20-5-19 16Walker's thread 20-5-19 17Walker's thread 20-5-19 18Walker's thread 20-5-19 19Walker's thread 20-5-19 20There is obviously so much more to be learned about this tragic incident. I continue to use Access to Information requests to obtain more documents and I continue to hope that somewhere within the state’s agencies the full account is being compiled.

 

 

 

 

 


Fire at Walker’s Place of Safety: More Information Needed

On January 16, 2018, a fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety resulted in the death of two  teenaged girls who lived at the institution, Ornieka McCrae and Anna Kay Moreland . I have made three Access to Information (ATI) requests to the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA), formerly the Child Development Agency (CDA), for documents containing information about the specific circumstances which led to the death of the girls. All three requests were responded to in a timely manner, but unfortunately have provided very little detail about the circumstances which led to the children’s deaths.

The CPFSA report (CDA Report – Walkers POS), which indicates it was submitted on February 15, 2018, a month after the fire, contained this information about the death of the girls:

CPFSA Walker's Feb 2018 report

Page 10

CPFSA report Walker's Place of Safety 2018 p.11

Page 11

CPFSA report Walker's Place of Safety 2018 p. 13

Page 13

The CPFSA report says that “the Fire Department…advised that an investigation has been launched into the cause of the fire.” The Jamaica Fire Brigade’s Final Fire Report (Jamaica Fire Brigade Final Fire Report – Walker’s Place of Safety – March 16 2018) is the result of that investigation, I assume. It had this to say about the death of the two girls:

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 1

General Remarks – page 1

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 2

General Remarks – page 2

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 2b

Origin and Cause – page 2

I found it difficult to accept that this was all that the CPFSA had in terms of specific information on the circumstances surrounding the death of two children in State care and made a third request for relevant information. I received the following response:

“With regards to your request below, please be advised that the only documents the CPFSA has relating to the death of the children in the fire at Walker’s POS are the Jamaica Fire Brigade Report and the CPFSA Walker’s report for which you have already obtained copies.” July 3, 2018

It cannot be that this represents the entire documentation of an incident in which two girls in the care of the state died. I am at this stage assuming that some other department of government has further information documented and I will be making additional ATI requests. For example, are there any statements by staff at the facility regarding what happened that night? Were any of the children who survived interviewed and their accounts documented? Thankfully thirty-four of the thirty-six children escaped safely, but surely we must want to find out why two children did not.

 


OCA’s Investigative Report on CDA’s Removal of Children From Child Care Facility

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:

OCA report issues to be determined.PNG

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 Gordon Harrison RJR 1449626552NN_GORDON_HARRISONthe 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.)

OCA download on Parliament websiteOCA CDA report cover 12-15