By Lara Pickford-Gordon
There were two recent cases which have spotlight individuals and families under stress in society: the finding of the body of seven-year-old McKenzie Hope Rechier, who was killed by her mother Deniel Rechier, and the abandonment of a newborn baby girl at the San Fernando General Hospital.
Over the years, there have been sporadic reports of children being abandoned. Not all cases end up in the news.
The Mary Care Home for Young Pregnant Girls, which has locations in north and south Trinidad has received babies “not even two hours old” says Eternal Light Community (ELC) leader, Deborah de Rosia.
The Mary Care Home (MCH) was the brainchild of the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin CSSp to assist pregnant teens and prevent them from resorting to abortion. The ELC manages the ministry on behalf of the Archdiocese.
“We’ve had newborn babies, the blood still on them, just wrapped in a towel and left on the ground outside of our gates and our response has always been as soon as we are notified that there is a child outside either on the ground or on a bench in the yard, we have taken the child to attend to the child, we report to the police and we normally keep the children.”
She told the Catholic News the natural response was to ensure the children are loved, cared for, and supported. Also not making the news are the result of their nurturing.
“One of them for whom that has happened just got all As in Form One, all her marks were over 90 per cent. My natural response and our natural response to things like that [abandonment] is that every child needs to be loved to be cared for, regardless…” de Rosia stated.
The facility responded to the cries of the child left in a dustbin in Rio Claro and she is now an adult with her own home and family. “I see her once a week…happy as ever living a full life.”
Before the establishment of the Children’s Authority (CA), MCH took in the children, reported to police, and attempted to locate the parents. The facility tries to make sure the parents who are found “will continue to have contact with their children, but we take care of the children while that process is going on”.
What can church do?
“Parishes are not just buildings; they are people, and they are networking with one another. We need to ask ourselves all those rural areas, do we pay attention to the lives of our people there? That’s the first question,” de Rosia said.
The ELC has an outreach to Sealots, a community on the outskirts of the capital. Though located close to the hub of commercial activity, there are impoverished people living in shacks.
“It does not matter what religion they are; we are in touch with the people. Some of them are mentally ill. We talk with them, make sure they get the medical help that they need to get,” de Rosia said.
Archbishop Jason Gordon has spoken about the mission of the domestic Church – families. She said if families are on mission, “our mission is not to ourselves, our mission is to be Good News to anybody around us. Maybe we need to become more aware of neighbour, taking care of neighbour, reaching out to neighbour and give the help people need regardless of denomination.”
De Rosia disclosed the Community is helping a woman with mental and physical illness with seven children. “The oldest is 15 years. None of those children have ever been to school.” Assistance was given to get birth certificates for the children. At the time of the interview, the mother was hospitalised at the San Fernando General Hospital.
“This is not a strange thing, it’s many of them…they are everywhere but we need to be more conscious and more open to treat with our people,” de Rosia said.
Go out to the people
Counselling psychologist Anna Maria Mora said services need to be developed to make it easy for people living in rural communities to access them. Mora said social workers cannot be content to be an office “and meet families, sit down and push paper”.
Trainee social workers can go out to communities to do their internship and not just be assigned to “built-up communities”. She said rural communities are neglected.
Mora said there must be some assistance to guide people from these communities particularly the uneducated, through the process of getting the help they need. The services may be located far away, and transportation is not easily accessible. “The services have to go to the people,” she said.
Mora questioned what measures existed to prevent exploitation of girls in rural communities stating, “there is no education about their sexuality, their personal
growth and development”. Some have made it out of poverty through education, but a lot still need help, she said.
Mora referred to the house in which 25-year-old Deniel Rechier lived with McKenzie. It was an incomplete shack with a mattress bed. “You can see the simplicity of the people… how simple they are, and they are just eking out an existence, and in this 21st century these rural communities need attention”.
Mora understood the necessity of following processes such as psychological assessments etc. but said the adoption/foster care procedures need to be simplified for placement of children.
Mora acknowledged staff shortages in the system can impact case management. “You can’t have one person seeing about 50 families, 20 families. That is why a lot of them (social workers) are burning out.”
Mora said the CA needs to establish offices especially a Monitoring and Investigation Unit close to rural communities. She suggested university graduates can be trained and sent out. Those who came from these communities may be more amenable to working in them.
Posters advertising the services available from the CA can be placed in “local community facilities” e.g., parlours and the police station.
Crucifixion – asking subversive questions