For the last three months I have been struggling with a case involving a child, an inmate of the Children’s Home, and the Children’s Home itself.
This child is an eight-year girl to whom I will assign the name Kim. Her mother is a 28-year-old young woman whose presumed named is Wilma. Wilma was a high school dropout who has four other children besides Kim. The last of them is just about one year of age.
In 2005 Kim and her mother had a misunderstanding which caused her mother to punish her with unusual severity.
The neighbours were outraged, the authorities were summoned, the child was whisked away to the Children’s Home, the mother was taken to court where she pleaded guilty and expressed remorse. For two years Wilma was denied access to Kim.
After two years, she was assigned to a foster home in Cayon and was allowed to visit her mother periodically. According to her foster parent, whenever she returned from such a visit she displayed an ‘attitude’. According to Kim, as reported by Wilma, the foster parent and her daughter used to beat her regularly. The foster parent decided to give her up on the grounds that she was unmanageable.
The next foster parent lived at Bird Rock. Kim liked her but she was a travelling woman and could not provide her foster child with proper foster care so she also gave her up. I think that the ‘travelling’ was an excuse and that she also found Kim to be incorrigible and gave up the effort of trying to foster her.
Among her propensities was blatant lying and vulgarity. Both the foster parent in Cayon and the one in Bird Rock complained about her penchant to be untruthful and her teachers at Primary School found that she had a very marked tendency towards vulgar behaviour which at her age they found completely unbelievable.
Kim’s mother, Wilma, apparently grown wiser from the chastisement of losing the company of her young daughter, decided to take steps to get her back. She argued that since no foster parent would take the child she would like to have her child back. She had taken regular counseling, she could now control her anger better; she was sure she would be able to love and care for Kim.
There was a snag, however. One of the staff of the Department of Social Development informed her that her child would have take a medical examination required by the magistrate.
Then came the shocker. Kim had lost her virginity. She was sexually active, at eight years of age.
This required an investigation and the suspicion fell on Wilma’s boyfriend with whom she lives. The authorities felt obliged to take away the one boy child who lived with Wilma’s and give him to temporary foster care.
Wilma’s other children were living elsewhere, one in Nevis two with their godmother in St. Kitts. In the eyes of the authorities Wilma’s boyfriend would be a dangerous threat even to her boy child so while they made a firm ruling that Kim must not go to her parent’s house on visits, they also ruled that the little boy was to be removed from his mother.
From the very beginning the probe seemed to implicate Wilma’s boyfriend but later Kim recanted and claimed she had been forced to make that allegation against him. Then she blamed her half-brother who lives in Nevis, she said it was Carlton who did it with her at the Children’s Home.
Carlton was a resident of the Children’s Home until late last year when I took him under my care. According to the story which Wilma heard from Kim, the encounter took place three years ago when Kim was only five and Carlton was sixteen. According to Kim, as reported by Wilma, they had sex in the girl’s room.
According to Kim, one of the supervisors became aware of the affair, told Kim to go and bathe and ordered Carlton to keep away from her.
Wilma found out that Carlton was under my care and came to me with the report. I questioned Carlton in her presence and he admitted that they had intercourse in the girls’ room and that when Miss Weaver, the Mistress of the House, found out she told him not to do it again.
Carlton’s 18-year-old body houses a mental development of about 7 or 8. His story sounds credible to me perhaps too credible, and I couldn’t help being struck by his insistence that it happened only once.
It is obvious from the various reports that, even with Carlton’s admission, Kim had been having sex with other partners, and whether her stepfather is culpable, the case raises sufficient alarm to awaken our community to the tragedy that faces our young girls even in their pre-teens.
We are forced to face the reality that girls as young as 5 years of age are sexually active and that their sexual partners are sometimes much older.
This was the reality which the late Robert Bradshaw faced years ago why he piloted the law to make male sex partners of young girls 15 years in jail for their crimes.
The fact that more young men are not in jail for this offence is that only when the girl becomes pregnant can the culprit’s crime be established. It is very difficult to take an accused before the court on the word of a little girl, especially when the lure of money makes her a willing partner in this affair.
I am still surprised, however, that the investigation was not taken to its ultimate conclusion. To my mind all three persons accused from time to time by this little girl, should have been questioned by the Police who should have been the ones to determine whether a crime had been committed.
Some nine years ago, a friend who had a girl child at the Children’s Home informed me that he had evidence that some of the boys and girls of the Home were having sex with one another.
I was then shocked at the tragic decline of the Children’s Home from the innocent days of Miss Lloyd’s administration. Then, it was the grooming ground for unfortunate children. Mother Lloyd raised them to become sober adults. Lawyers, accountants, top civil servants, sailors, good parents have emerged from Mother Lloyd’s training.
Those were days when the whole crowd of residents used to walk holding hands to and from the Moravian Church every Sunday.
Now it appears to be an unsupervised, junior brothel where sexual acts are dismissed by the admonition to go and bathe.
What has happened at the Children’s Home should be an indicator to the authorities of what can happen at Harris if girls and boys are integrated in a rehabilitation facility.
I don’t know who gave them the idea that boys and girls who have to be placed in a foster home because they lacked proper parenting would photosynthesize into cherubins and sephaphims, but I know, and everyone else knows that establishing a cogender rehabilitation facility will place undue strain on the staff who have the job to supervise it.
My prescription is the abolition of the Children’s Home in its present form and it’s conversion into a Home for the teenage girls who would otherwise have gone to Harris.