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Police probing pregnancies at children’s home

POLICE are investigating how several underage girls at a State-run children’s home became pregnant, Minister of Social Development Donna Cox said yesterday, in response to a question in the Senate from Opposition Senator Wade Mark.

However, Cox said a preliminary investigation by the Children’s Authority found that no member of staff at the children’s home was responsible for the pregnancies of the girls who were resident at the institution.

Cox said the Children’s Authority had generated a report on the incidents and had submitted the report to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

She said the investigation by the Children’s Authority also found no evidence to suggest that the other children residing at the home were at risk of abuse.

‘The home in which both incidents occurred has taken steps, including hiring additional caregivers to increase the effectiveness of supervision of the children,’ she said.

Cox said more than 500 children are accommodated in children’s homes across Trinidad and Tobago, most of which were run by private organisations. The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, ‘which has responsibility for establishing and monitoring the quality of care at these homes, handles reports regarding pregnancies of girls below the age of 18 who are residents of State care institutions with utmost caution and discretion’, promptly notifying the Police Service as part of its established procedure, said the minister.

‘Regarding the reports received in May 2023, checks at the Authority revealed that these incidents took place in May 2022 and January 2023. As it relates to the children involved, the first course of action that the Authority took was to conduct a psychosocial investigation to safeguard and treat with the needs of the children. This included

conducting interviews with the children and staff at the home to understand the child’s current needs and the risks to other children. Support services were provided to the children. One of the girls turned 18 and is no longer in State care. She was reintegrated with her family where she’s receiving the relevant support to take care of herself and her baby. The other child remains in State care and was placed at another home where she continues to receive the necessary intervention and support,’ Cox said.

She said it was important to note that the Authority’s investigation did not negate the ongoing criminal investigation conducted by the Police Service into these incidents.

She pointed out that two children’s homes have been specifically designated to accommodate pregnant teenagers under State care while pregnant. Additionally, as of July 1, 2023, the Children’s Authority has ensured that all 33 children’s homes are licensed and continues to provide monitoring and oversight to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.

The Children’s Authority remains committed to pursuing the reunification of children with their families wherever possible, or providing alternative placement options such as foster care or kinship foster care as deemed appropriate and in the best interest of each child, the minister stated.

Cox said the Children’s Authority had generated a report on these incidents involving the pregnancy of the teenagers and has submitted the report to the TTPS.

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