The Social Protection Ministry has already embarked on regulations for state institutions, Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence said.
Minister Lawrence was responding to a recent report circulated in the media by ChildLink which stated that children living in institutional care have been abused by their caregivers.
Minister Lawrence told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that she has not received a copy of the report; however, work has already begun to implement regulations and provide and organise training for Social Services assistants and caregivers at state care institutions.
“I have not seen a copy of that report, you have read what was written in the newspapers, but I can say that the reasons that we are looking for regulations at the home is to ensure that these things do not happen, not only in the homes but at the Early Childhood Development centers…We are seeking guidance in terms of how people treat with our small persons and also to ensure we have the persons with the requisite skills to deal with children,” Minister Lawrence explained.
The issue of children being abused in institutional care is one that the Government inherited.
The report stated that while caregivers have unanimously reported that corporal punishment was not applied to the children in their care, children are saying they have been physically abused.
“…In most instances persons are just employed, there are no back ground checks. They just come to do a job and many of them, they don’t know how to parent a child and so they just do what they know. Many of us, we speak about corporal punishment … but in many of the homes, they believe that if they ‘spare the rod’ they ‘will spoil the child’ and so that is the measure they use. I look forward to seeing the report and seeing what the report says so that it will help us as we go forward to provide the various regulations and guidance for the homes,” Minister Lawrence said.
The Ministry is looking specifically at training and the quality of persons being employed at these institutions, and to ensure background checks are carried out on individuals to be employed.
Minister Lawrence said that the Ministry will start the process in -house, and by the end of the year, will engage private institutions to have a dialogue on the way forward to ensure that the country’s children are protected.
There are 23 child residential care institutions in Guyana, of which 20 are privately owned and managed, and 3 being state care centers, namely the the Drop-in-Center, Mahaica Children’s Home and the Sophia Care Center.
Currently, there are approximately 700 children at these institutions with about 165 in state care.