RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT

Five teenaged boys reportedly have escaped from one of the Children’s Authority’s Child Support Centres over the weekend, and as police officers are searching for them, the Children’s Authority has sent out a warning to families and friends that they can face a fine of $3,000 or even imprisonment, if they are found to be harbouring them.

The boys, ages 15 and 16 years, are from Diego Martin, St James, Laventille, Curepe and Siparia.

Police said the teenagers escaped from the north facility at some time between Friday night and Saturday morning.

An official at the centre contacted the police on Saturday at about 11:45 am to report that the five boys were discovered missing after making routine checks.

Guardian Media understands CCTV footage viewed by investigating officers disclosed that the boys escaped the facility by passing through burglar proofed bars in a room on the western side of the building.

When contacted for comment, the Children’s Authority confirmed the escape and added that investigations are ongoing.

“The Authority is working closely with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to recover the boys,” the Authority confirmed.

Public Education & Communications Manager, Cheryl Moses-Williams, has advised all families and friends of the boys who absconded over the weekend, to call the Police at 999 or the Authority’s hotlines at 996 or 800-2014, if they contact them or receive information about their location.

“The Authority wishes to remind the public that it is illegal to conceal the whereabouts of a child who has absconded,” Moses-Williams said.

She pointed to Section 47 of the Children Act 2012, which states:

“Where a person—(a) knowingly assists or induces, directly or indirectly, a child to escape from the person to whose care he is committed; or (b) knowingly harbours, conceals or prevents a child who has so escaped from returning to such person, or knowingly assists in so doing, is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of three thousand dollars or to imprisonment for six months.”

Moses-Williams also disclosed that the Centres, which are managed by the Authority, were established for children in immediate need of care and protection, who receive interventions and rehabilitative care, while suitable placement options are explored.

“However, more than 70 per cent of the children at the Centres remain in the care of the Authority longer than the legislated period of 12 weeks.  This occurs as families and fit persons often find it difficult to treat or manage with the varying behaviours of the children, who may have experienced trauma prior to coming to the Centre,” she explained.

Moses-Williams said that since the incident, the Authority has taken the necessary corrective action to improve security at the Centres.

“The Authority will provide relevant information as it becomes available and remains steadfast in its vision to defend and support child rights and make child protection everybody’s business,” she added.