~Midwives withholding birth paper a concern~
PHILIPSBURG--Midwives withholding the birth certificates of babies, whose parents did not pay for the delivery was one of several concerns expressed by representatives of three children's homes during a meeting of Parliament's Permanent Committee of Justice on Tuesday morning.
Representatives of the homes outlined the challenges that children in foster care, who are without the birth paper, face during the meeting. I Can Children's Home President Cassandra Gibbs said there were two undocumented children in I Can who do not have birth certificates, as these were withheld by the midwife for lack of payment for the delivery.
She said not having a birth certificate is an impediment to many things for these children. Questions about this concern which were emailed to two midwives on Tuesday, were not immediately answered.
Homes represented at the meeting were I Can; New Start Foundation Children's Home operator Sally Benjamin; Hope Outreach Children's Home official Antonia Hodge.
The homes were concerned after not receiving any follow-up to a meeting they had with Justice Minister Dennis Richardson on February 14. The homes felt that a number of articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, were being violated. Some of their concerns were addressed during a meeting with the minister and other officials on Tuesday afternoon.
A common concern expressed was the absence of facilities to help foster children, who age-out of foster care when they turn 18. Gibbs said she has a child who has been in foster care since age four. This child is turning 18 and "where he goes is still up in the air."
She said this child's case is not isolated. During his years in foster care, no relationships were fostered with his birth parents and his mother is homeless so the child has nowhere to go. She said the boy had been doing "side jobs" from last year, but this was suspended as he is in his last year for his General Equivalency Diploma (GED) studies. He aspires to become an Aviation Mechanic and he needs a GED to obtain a scholarship.
Benjamin said there were children in New Start who will be turning 18 and "have nowhere to go. I would seriously want something to be done."
Another common concern was the amount of funds foster homes receive from government for the sustenance of children in their care. Gibbs described this as "one of the most troublesome areas" for her home.
Foster homes receive NAf. 500 per child, which Gibbs said is insufficient. She said NAf. 2,000 per month would be more sufficient to cover the various needs of a child in foster care, some of whom have various after school activities that they engage in. The amount per child was last increased almost 10 years ago when the home had been receiving about NAf. 275 at the time.
She said certain legislation is still lacking and her home was still struggling with accessibility to certain departments and officials.
She raised a concern where a child had been taken to the home by the police and for two months no Foundation Judiciary Institute Windward Islands SJIB official had visited the home to follow up on the case of the child because it was said that proper procedures were not followed. She questioned whether the procedures superseded the safety of the child and urged MPs to look into this matter as well as into the procedures.
Hodge said the concern for Hope Outreach had to do with undocumented children, who have difficulties accessing, amongst other things, health care. She said assistance had been requested for this and a plan is being put in place to have children registered and covered.
Hodge said some of the children in her care were born in French St. Martin to Dutch nationals and their births were never registered at the Dutch side Department of Civil Registry. This, she said, poses a challenge as the children do not get medical coverage at Social and Health Care Insurances SZV.
She said another issue developed lately when efforts were made to renew the medical insurance of children who had medical insurance. SZV indicated that legal guardian which they consider to be the parent had to pass by SZV. However, when parents went in, the medical insurance renewal was denied because parents did not meet the criteria.
In one case, for example, SZV said the mother worked only half days. Hodge said parents in these cases are not the legal guardian of their children as guardianship is given to social workers appointed by a judge.
Hodge said there were 17 children at Hope Outreach. Benjamin said 19 at New Start and I Can has 17 children, who are predominantly boys.