Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister-Gender & Child Affairs Jacqueline Johnson.

A survey of nurseries is expected to be completed by the end of the fiscal year in September so that regulations and law governing nurseries and child caregivers can be proclaimed and implemented.

This was confirmed by the Gender and Child Affairs Ministry (Office of the Prime Minister) yesterday.

This in the wake of an incident in which two-year-old Romelu Drakes drowned in a pool on the compound of his school at Esperanza, Couva, on Tuesday. His inconsolable father, Shion Drakes, is calling for justice, saying no one from the school has yet contacted him following the incident. Couva police and the Ministry of Education are investigating the matter separately.

The Gender and Child Affairs Ministry said the Children’s Authority – its implementing arm – is also probing the issue and will report on its findings.

Gender and Child Affairs Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy wasn’t available yesterday but Permanent Secretary Jacqueline Johnson said, “We’re aware there are a number of nurseries and childminders in T&T and it’s important for us to assist them towards being properly licenced, monitored and evaluated so their operations are in children’s best interests.

“Once you have care of somebody’s child your establishment must be up to the standards of care required as a safe place for a child to develop.”

The ministry’s jurisdiction covers children from zero to 18 years operating collaboratively with the Children’s Authority, Education and other ministries.

In 2016 Webster-Roy said the ministry was in the process of developing policy to guide nursery operations and regulate childminders. That’s completed. The policy, to be implemented by the authority, will require licencing of all nurseries followed by monitoring, evaluation and systems that are currently being developed. Regulations will ensure nurseries and childminders are sufficiently trained. For instance, a programme is being done with the Nurses’ Association.

Nurseries fall within a suite of legislation involving the Community Residences, Foster Care and the Nurseries Act. The majority of the act was proclaimed – except for the part concerning nurseries.

However, regulations and law will be able to be proclaimed after frameworks, including a register of all nurseries in T&T, are done. The project began last year and is targetted to be completed by September.

The number of nurseries in T&T is unknown. Last year, the ministry collaborated with the authority on a project to identify all nurseries, design an administrative framework, licensing procedure and monitoring/evaluation systems – and classify nurseries.

This is to ensure nurseries comply with the legislation and regulations and maintain a national standard of care for children. Recommendations on this include having one caregiver to three children.

The initial call for nurseries to register, however, didn’t yield response from more than 10. A second call for registration was similarly unsuccessful and now a survey of nurseries is being done via footwork in communities. The ministry stated that the location of nurseries must be known, as well as who’s managing, their level of training and whether properly resourced.

The “childminder” aspect will also be regulated, since people may not realise they have a responsibility under the National Children’s Policy and the 2015 suite of children’s laws. Conditions would also apply for any special facilities, including speech and language therapy, to be done at nurseries.

Questions on Romelu’s school—Indarsingh

Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh, who visited his constituent Regine Phillip (growing victim Romelu’s mother) following the incident, said, “The family has many questions: how, why was the pool not cordoned off? I want to know how you can have 27 children (as reported) in a place, what safety systems were there and whether this school had approval. Whether a special needs facility or not, such places should be subject to regulatory approvals/inspections.”

The Social Development Ministry had assured contact was made with the family towards offering assistance.

Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, who offered Romelu’s family deep condolences, said it was a sad and tragic death. She added the school wasn’t registered/affiliated with the ministry, which is getting more information on its operations.