THE BOY: “It is no fun living in a children’s care centre. Well, there is some fun, but it is not the same as the fun I had when I lived with my family. All the children in the centre have a type of family problem, or they wouldn’t be there. Some children know the reasons why they are there, but others have no idea because they are too young to understand.
For my sister and I, one minute we were with our mother in a small apartment in a yard, and the next, we were sitting in the office at the Childcare and Protection Agency. I am Raphael, aged eight, and my sister Rose is five. People were bustling around, doing their work, while we just sat there. I was hoping my mother would come soon to collect us, when she reached home and found us gone, but she was taking a long time, and I was hungry. By now I would have gone to a neighbour and asked for something to eat, Miss Dunes always gave us a tennis roll or puri if she had; she never turned us away like some people in the yard.
The lady who brought us there approached, ‘I’m taking you to the child-friendly room where you can have something to eat’ she said. We still haven’t heard from your mother; do you know where she is?’ I shook my head, no in reply. Our mother left us every day, sometimes into the night, for a long time. When she came home, she brought food, and if she didn’t, we drank sugar water and ate plantain chips. I held my sister’s hand while we went to the child-friendly room where we had tea with bakes and sausage. When we’d finished, the assistant in the room let us watch a movie.”
THE OFFICER: The Child Protection Officer sat in the Assistant Director’s (Miss Shaw) office with folders on her lap and notes about the family in question. Along with her colleague, she collected the brother and sister earlier that morning. It was time to explain the case to her superior.
‘Neighbours have called the hotline on two occasions to report the mother; she is not providing proper food, clothes or supervision for those children. When we got there this morning and knock, the little boy opened the door, it could have been anyone and he and his sister in there alone; no sign of the mother.
The whole place was in a mess and there was hardly any food; the children steady begging the neighbours. Both of them look malnourished, they really need some attention.’
Miss Shaw asked, ‘Do you have the father’s name? Can he be contacted? She can’t be leaving those children like that.’ The officer continued, ‘The children nor the neighbours could help us with a name, no one has seen him, everywhere we turn, it’s a dead end. I left the number and address with the neighbours, so the mother knows we have them, but we haven’t heard from her all day’.
Miss Shaw evaluated the facts and made her decision in the best interest of the children.
‘Take them to the Children and Family Care Centre in Sophia. It is the safest place for them right now. We need to process them, let them get their medicals and start the ball rolling with an assessment and care plan. Whenever the mother turns up, call me, we need to find out what is going on with this woman.’
The officer tidied her folders and rose, ready to leave the room; she knew it was going to be a long evening. The procedure of taking children into care had many protocols and the Children and Family Care Centre was the first stop for children in difficult circumstances.
THE BOY: “It was evening, and my mother still hadn’t come for us. We watched two movies, the second one had a car chase and fighting, but I was feeling sad inside. The same lady who brought us to the agency told us she couldn’t find our mother, so she was going to take us somewhere to stay. I wanted to go home, I was sure my mother would turn up soon, but the lady said we had to go with her.
My sister was crying, ‘Mum- my, I want mummy’; I wanted to cry too. It was a long drive to the care centre, we sat in the back of the car with the lady, by now it was dark, I had no idea where we were, or where we were going. I let the tears roll down my cheeks.
I have learnt a lot about the Children and Family Centre Since then. We have three meals a day; we get school supplies and uniform and they take us to school. We have our own bed, toothbrush and towel and play in the yard. That’s when we have fun, but it’s not the same as the fun I had when I lived with my family.”
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at email@example.com
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY