Why is the children’s home still open? | Local News
The Margaret Kistow Children’s Home, identified for immediate closure five months ago in the Judith Jones Committee report into child care abuse, was due to be closed by the Children’s Authority in 2019.
It was the most recent attempt to shut down a house that had been in business for almost 30 years. Why the house remains open today is a mystery that Gender Affairs Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy cannot explain. In an interview last Wednesday, she said: “Information obtained from the CATT (Childhood Authority) indicates that no recommendation to close this home has been made.”
However, the Sunday Express has seen documents from the Children’s Authority, one of which is dated August 26, 2017, titled ‘Margaret Kistow Children’s Home: Plans for the Cessation of Operations’. The plan was discussed at length by the board and management of the Children’s Authority, according to minutes titled ‘Matters involving Margaret Kistow Children’s Home’ and reviewed by the Sunday Express.
Two years later, the minutes of the Authority’s board of directors meeting of March 22, 2019 stated that “the Authority will write to the RC (community residence) informing them that they are taking measures to cease their activities and engage the OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) to help with the placement of children currently residing in this CR.
The move was to start with the youngest children first. This was supposed to happen in April 2019, according to documents seen.
To this day, the house continues to operate. He receives $75,000 a month in government grants, according to Webster-Roy. The house is also generously supported by large donations of provisions from well-meaning members of the public.
A source familiar with the then Department of Social Development’s National Family Services Division in the 1990s recalled that the Kistow home had since been flagged for similar offenses identified in the current Judith Jones committee report.
Almost a decade later, in 2016, the Children’s Authority gave the home a year and a plan to improve critical aspects of its operations or be closed. When the deadline expired in September 2017, the house was still non-compliant. Yet it was not closed.
An internal Children’s Authority document titled “Report of non-compliance at Margaret Kistow Children’s Home, 26 September 2017” observed an infestation of cockroaches, floor and walls covered in dust and dirt, food expired items, excess donated items still in bags and boxes, uncovered bins overflowing with trash and houseflies, litter and debris in the yard, stray dogs wandering the yard, dog feces, broken cabinets and shelves, among others.
According to the Authority’s 2017 internal report, the children in the house wore the wrong size clothes, some had no vaccination cards or birth certificates, no board games or toys, had never been to the dentist or had never had their eyes examined, and discipline was ongoing. forced to kneel in a corner.
Despite the home’s previous non-compliance, the Authority again gave the home a deadline of November 31, 2017 to comply.
In March 2019, as the Authority’s deadline to begin removing young children from the Margaret Kistow home approached, the Children’s Authority board finally agreed to close the home.
Then a month later, in April 2019, board minutes show Safiya Noel, then director of the Children’s Authority, reporting that “the home had made considerable efforts to improve”. According to board minutes, by then the home had received official communication from the Authority of its intention to close the home. Similar closing comments came from the Public Health Division, as noted in council minutes.
All Authority board minutes and reports are sent to the Ministry of Gender Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
The Judith Jones Committee report recommended the immediate closure of the Margaret Kistow Home for fear of a “catastrophic event which would result in high losses”.
In September 2017, the Children’s Authority closed the Family First Foundation for Children in Tobago, another home reported by the Authority.
However, in this case, the Authority only issued its closure notice after a fire engulfed the Calder Hall facility which housed nine children, including a three-month-old baby and three-year-old twins. No one was hurt.