The following statement was released today (Oct 12) by Opposition Senator Robin Tucker, One Bermuda Alliance…

For decades the Department of Child and Family Services’ (DCFS), Psycho-Education Programme has sent Bermudian children with psychological, social/emotional, or psychiatric challenges to overseas facilities, all funded by the public purse.    

It has been estimated that between 2009 and 2019, approximately $33 million had been spent on sending children overseas to psycho-educational facilities.    

Over the years, DCFS representatives have been questioned by the media, children’s advocates, and others about various aspects of the Programme; however, very little information has been forthcoming.    In advance of the 5 October Senate session, questions were sent to Senator and Junior Minister of Seniors and Social Development, Lindsay Simmons, such as:  

What was the total cost of sending children to overseas facilities for fiscal years 2019-2022,  

What was the total number of in-person welfare checks made to children in overseas psycho-educational care facilities during the same period?  

How many children returned to Bermuda and participated in reunification plans during the calendar years 2015 to 2020?    

The Senate learned that between fiscal 2019 and 2022, the Government spent $5,878,777.88 on children in these overseas facilities.  As a follow up, Senator Simmons was asked to give a breakdown of amounts paid to each facility, and although it was made clear that only numbers, no names were needed, the Senate was told the information is confidential.    

The Psycho-Education Programme is paid for by taxpayers.  Therefore, how is it that millions of taxpayer dollars are spent annually to ensure the wellbeing of our children sent to overseas programmes and yet when questions are raised, we are in effect told that it is none of our business?    

Shouldn’t the public know how the money is spent and be assured that it is fully benefitting the children, all while maintaining confidentiality for all concerned?  To Senator Simmons’ credit, she answered some questions in the Senate, but others remain unanswered:  

What happened to the children who did not successfully complete reunification plans between 2015-2020 after returning from the overseas Psycho-Education Programme? Did they go to foster care, on the streets, in prison or worse?    

What services does DCFS provide to children who did not successfully complete reunification plans and do not reintegrate into their families once they return to Bermuda?  

Were any complaints raised by the children living there, or their guardians related to mistreatment by any overseas facility staff either before, during or after DCFS conducted welfare checks between 2019-2022?  A yes or no answer was requested.    Over the years, there has been considerable secrecy around the Psycho-Education Programme’s operations and its outcomes.  There have been success stories but also tragedies, so shouldn’t there be an expectation of a level of transparency by DCFS that gives the public assurance that there is adequate accountability?  

Getting answers to questions is one way that helps accomplish that.  Using confidentiality as an excuse not to answer questions is simply unacceptable.