MP calls for government action on DCFS
An Opposition MP called on the Government to act over “scandal after scandal after scandal” at the Department of Child and Family Services.
Scott Pearman, the shadow legal affairs minister, applauded The Royal Gazette’s Who Cares? series about how the island’s most vulnerable children are looked after locally and abroad.
However, he said it would not make any difference unless “those with the power” were motivated to do something about it.
Mr Pearman said the One Bermuda Alliance’s calls for an independent investigation into the department had fallen on deaf ears over the past year.
He said: “We have seen scandal, after scandal, after scandal. When will someone in our government finally stand up and be counted?
“When will someone be held accountable for the tragic events concerning the DCFS?
“The Royal Gazette’s initiative, shining the spotlight on the DCFS scandals, is a commendable one, but what will actually come of it?”
As part of the weeklong Who Cares? series, campaigners and people who were sent to reform schools in the United States urged the Government to consider alternatives to overseas care for children with behavioural problems.
Mr Pearman said: “As the newspaper so pointedly asks: Who Cares? I would add this question: who has the power to do something about it?
“What more has to go wrong with DCFS before our Premier realises that an independent investigation is desperately needed?
“Without an investigation, we cannot hope to discover what the problems are, and without identifying the problems, we have no chance of implementing meaningful solutions.
“Those with the power to do something must now act.”
The Paget East MP pointed to a long list of controversies that have involved the DCFS in recent months.
• Allegations of abuse and neglect of vulnerable Bermudian children
• Investigations which have either “faded away” or produced reports that were kept secret
• Tiffanne Thomas, the island’s only litigation guardian, resigning over unpaid fees
• Bermudian children being sent to overseas institutions, including one that shut down due to abuse scandals
• Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons telling the media not to ask questions and refusing to name the people appointed to a new litigation guardians panel
• The death of a young Bermudian woman who had been sent to an overseas institution
Mr Pearman said: “For over a year, the Opposition has been calling for a proper, thorough and independent investigation into the escalating scandals at DCFS.
“We have been joined in our call by many others, including citizens involved with social work, with the family courts and with various charities.
“We have raised these issues with the Premier in the House of Assembly, with the Attorney-General in the Senate and with the public in the media.
“But we are no closer to the answers, with the cracks being papered over.”
The Ministry of Legal Affairs did not respond to Mr Pearman’s comments, but a spokeswoman said last week that the decision on overseas referral was “not taken lightly”.
She said: “Recommendations for referral overseas via the psychoed programme are made after all other resources locally are exhausted. Local resources are family, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, other family intervention programmes and outreach services.
“All sections in the department are continually assessing and reassessing processes and making improvements for the betterment of the clients that we serve. Psychoed is no different.”
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