Visitation to Children in State Care “too restrictive”- Child Link Report
A report compiled by Child Link has shown that the Child Care and Protection Agency’s (CCPA) process for visiting children in institutional care is too restrictive, while there is little information available on the causes of children being placed in institutional care.
Child Link on Friday shared the findings of a recent report “An analysis on the nature and extent of the institutionalization of children in Guyana” which analysed 10 of the 23 facilities in regions 3, 4 and 6.
It focused on an examination of the legalities of removing and placing children in institutions, an assessment of standards of the institutions in relation to the government minimum standard for institutions, a determination of factors leading to short and long term institutional care in Guyana, a determination of the factors and challenges of the re-integration process and role of the visiting parents.
The report was presented by a Consultant attached to Child Link, Melanie Smith who noted that the CCPA records show that as of February 2016, 624 children were in institutional care while 179 were in foster care.
However, she disclosed that “there is little empirical data from the CCPA on the causes of children being placed in institutional care in Guyana. Most data came from the children and was substantiated by caregivers (which includes) weakening family systems, child abuse, abandonment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse and poverty, child discipline, death of parents, school absenteeism, disability of child or parent and fire” the findings of the report stated.
It was also noted that the process of visitation is too “restrictive” thus deterring parents from regularly visiting their children. This subsequently leads to children feeling abandoned.
The report recommended that the visiting committee (which have not met for a year) to be re-instated and their objectives be reviewed forthwith.
The report also recommended that “more case workers are urgently needed to provide more psychological support to children and families and improve ratios of children in care.”
Alluding to the recent incident where a fire at the Children’s Drop-in Center claimed the lives of two children, Kean Chase, Project Officer attached to the organization noted that the incident may have been avoided if there were more than two caregivers looking over 31 children at the facility.
The findings revealed that “there are no established criteria to determine in which facility a child is placed and caregivers do not have information about the factors leading to children being placed in a particular home.”
This, the consultant noted, has led to cases of children being moved from one location to Georgetown without having a clue about the new surroundings.
In this regard, the report recommended that efforts be made to ensure that the children better “groove into” their new environment.
It also urged that more information be given to children about why they are being placed in care and honesty about the length of time they may remain in care since “this helps them to maintain hope and understand why they’re in care and helps them adjust better to life in institutional care.”
The consultant disclosed that there are several stories of children who were told that they “will be returning home tomorrow.”
Highlighting that there are frequent cases of girls between the ages of 13-15 being sexually abused prior to entering these facilities, it was noted that “special prevention and protection must be given to vulnerable children…and Residential facilities should have information about the child’s circumstances to make an informed response to their needs” while “children in residential care urgently need to be informed about their rights and responsibilities continuously while care.”
The organization said during the process of gathering information, parents has stated that there is usually some amount of difficulty encountered after their children have returned home. This was likely to the fact that the child would have aged during their time in institutional care.
Ages of children and young adults in care range from 5 days to 24 years including children with disabilities. Meanwhile, children in care remain there for between 2 weeks to 15 years with an average length of 4 years.
It was noted that a structured approach including life skill training and follow-up is required for young adults transitioning out of institutional care and parents and children should receive support and counseling. More follow-up is required on children who leave state institutions, the report also stated.
The study combined questionnaires, In Depth interviews, key information interviews and focus group discussions to gather information.
Limitations to gathering information the organization said the absence of empirical data and lack of disaggregated data, low participation of parents and residential care facilities being reluctant to provide relevant information