St. Dominic's Children Home
In 1871 Fr. Mariano Forestier, a Dominican priest, founded the St. Dominic's Children's Home (SDCH/the Home) - known then as the Belmont Orphanage, to care for the many poor, homeless children wandering on the streets of the city of Port of Spain. Historically, this wave of ‘street-children’ was a direct result of the harsh economic and social impact of emancipation and indentureship on the families of the people who were brought to Trinidad. Mr. L.A. Le Roy, a benefactor, bought the property on which the Home stands and gave it to Fr. Forestier to carry out his mission.
In June of that year, the diocese became the owner of the property and in September of that same year Archbishop Gonin officially blessed the Home. As a result of Fr. Forestier’s persistence, Belmont Orphanage was soon recognized by the Government as a public utility and by the end of the 1871 became the recipient of a Government grant of $4 per month per child up to the age of sixteen years (Retout, 1988).
In 1876, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena accepted responsibility for managing and operating the Home, a mission which they still carry on today on behalf of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. A Board of Management was later appointed by the Archbishop to work with the Sisters in driving the policy making, planning and strategic activity of the Home.
Objectives and Target Audience
At SDCH, boys and girls who are in need of out-of-home care and protection are admitted - often based on an intervention by the Children's Authority - on a Care Order, Guardianship Order or an Emergency Protection Order issued by the Family Court or a court from any jurisdiction within Trinidad and Tobago.
Most of the children admitted have experienced multiple trauma: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect; violent and sudden loss of a loved one - many having witnessed the incident, witness to domestic violence.
The services which we provide for the children and the members of their family system include:
- Direct care and protection services
- Educational Opportunities and Vocational Training
- Counselling and Therapeutic services
- Aftercare services
- Developmental and recreational programmes, including: Individual and group work, the Sankofa Life Skills programme, Martial arts, Sports, Music and Drama, Art and Craft
Common Sense Parenting and First Aid Training form part of the mandatory training programme provided by SDCH for all its caregivers. We often partner with service and corporate groups within our community in providing these services.
We at SDCH believe that children need permanency, children need family. As such we also believe that out-of-home care should be seen as a last resort for children and, when it does become necessary, the earliest possible reintegration into the family system should be the goal.
We also believe that our children are resilient - they have lived through difficult - sometimes traumatic - experiences and, as such, we distance ourselves from the rhetoric of 'victimhood' as we work with them and the members of their family system.
These are some of the core beliefs/principles which give shape to the model of care - the S.T.E.P.E.R.S. Model - which we practice here at SDCH. Our Vision and Mission flow from this:
Small, family-styled households where skilled and committed caregivers nurture and guide the children and young people in their care, providing them with the safety, security, stability and support they need to resolve their trauma/loss issues, develop their human potential and effectively reintegrate into the family/community system.
To promote, through a continuum of services, the well-being and development of children and young people in out-of-home-care and facilitate their earliest possible reintegration into a caring family system.
We at SDCH have been working towards the development and full implementation of the S.T.E.P.E.R.S. Model since 2008. We are already seeing the difference that this 'posturing' can make in terms of more favourable post-care outcomes for children and youth - particularly in terms of permanency, the stability of post-care placement and the successful completion of academic/vocational programmes.
As we continue to work and advocate for more favourable adult outcomes for children and youth at risk we look forward to the development of a more robust system of preventative services, support services and aftercare for this population; for effective and efficient parenting programmes, community-based remediation programmes and wraparound services that will help families to better function and so serve to keep children in families - keeping them safe whilst at the same time promoting their development and contribution as citizens.