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Archbishop establishes team to review RC children’s homes

Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon has established a team to undertake a systemic review of Catholic Care Homes for children and to implement new policies and guidelines that meet international standards for the management of homes and the care for children.

The team is expected to conduct a thorough and comprehensive analysis of primary services, such as human resource competencies, job functions, and organisational structure, as well as operational and financing deficiencies.

It will be chaired by Vincent Pereira, Chairman, Republic Financial Holdings Limited, Deputy Chair of United Way TT and former senior leader in the energy sector.

Also serving on the team are Dr Karen Moore, Clinical Child Psychologist, with over 25 years of experience in the areas of child psychology, specialising in the areas of child abuse and trauma, among other areas; Angela Hamel-Smith, an Industrial Court Judge and formerly the Group Manager, Human Resource with the Massy Group for over 20 years; and Annabelle Sooklal, an attorney-at-law with 29 years of experience in civil matters including family law, 15 years of experience in arbitration and considerable experience in the conduct of public enquiries.

Over time, the team will draw on the expertise and experience of other professionals and resources which would benefit their work.

The intervention comes at a critical time when there are mounting concerns about institutional failures in both religious and secular homes in the safeguarding of minors.

Today’s announcement (June 10) follows the Archbishop’s stated commitment on June 6 to enrol the support of competent, qualified, and concerned persons to relook at how Catholic residential homes for children are managed.

The team’s mandate is focused on the restructuring of homes in accordance with best-in-class international guidelines – including those provided by UNICEF. It is expected that the analysis should provide the most appropriate way forward for multifaceted rehabilitation and successful social reintegration of children entering the Catholic care system.

Recommendations should be reflective of the specific legislative and socioeconomic characteristics of Trinidad and Tobago.

In announcing the team, Archbishop Gordon said that despite the many success stories that have emerged from children’s homes, “it is clear that the system has serious deficiencies which must be corrected”.

He maintained it is time for the Church to “step up and move forward” to remedy these shortcomings, through a comprehensive and systemic overhaul of the care institutions for children.

“Every child is a gift from God and deserves to live in safety and with the loving support of responsible adults. I am grateful to this team for their generosity in volunteering their time and service to this significant and important undertaking,” the Archbishop said.