State asked to raise age limit at children’s homes to 21

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State asked to raise age limit at children’s homes to 21

A suggestion has been made for the State to raise the mandatory leaving age of wards of children’s homes from 18 to 21 years.

The call was made by Deoraj Sookdeo, acting manager of the St Jude’s Home for Girls.

Speaking to media following the launch of a programme intended to provide skills-training for girls, on Tuesday at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Gender and Child Affairs Unit, St Clair Avenue, Port of Spain, Sookdeo said the raise in age could better facilitate the transition of girls from being wards of the State to living independent, stable lives.

Attending the orientation were 40 wards from St Jude’s Home who made up the first cohort of trainees for the programme. The girls are between 16-17 years.

Sookdeo said while the law prevents children from remaining as wards at homes when they turn 18, it is sometimes necessary for girls to remain so they can receive the necessary care and support.

“I’m particularly happy this programme is being launched, but I think we need to do a little more in terms of transitioning, which is a big thing and 18 is not a magic number.

“If they were doing an educational programme they may not have completed it (on reaching the age of 18) and sometimes because of the system, they may have to go home and there is no continuity.

“Sometimes we may need to keep them in a structured environment in order for the completion of some of these programmes, so maybe the age of 21.

“I think 21 would be a much better age to allow more time to work with these young ladies to ensure they have a good footing and good standing, to be able to help themselves.”

Sookdeo said a possible raising of the age limit was part of discussions being had with the Gender and Child Affairs Unit, but he noted to raise the age would require legislative and policy changes.