The two boys who perished in an early morning fire at the Hadfield Street Children Drop in Centre, at were taken away from their mother two days prior to the tragic incident.
The Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA) and the Ministry of Social Protection have assumed collective responsibility for the loss of lives and came together to offer full details into the situation at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
The now dead 2-year-old Joshua George and his brother, 6-year-old Antonio George along with three other siblings were removed from their home on Wednesday and placed at the drop in center as a temporary alternative to an otherwise indifferent situation.
CC&PA Director Ann Green extended her heartfelt sympathy to the family but said the removal of the children from their home was at the time in their best interest.
She claimed that there were reports of neglect and abuse which was confirmed when the children were taken for medical examinations earlier on Thursday.
The Agency and the Ministry are still working with the bereaved mother of the two dead boys while the other three siblings have been transferred to the Sophia Care Center.
All of the other children from the Drop in Centre are now being housed at Sophia where they are receiving therapy.
According to the two Social Services Assistants who were on duty at the time, the fire started just after midnight.
The House Mother claimed that she heard a sound coming from an electric wire before noticing blue flames which quickly engulfed the building.
She said the children, who were all asleep, were quickly alerted and the House Father, who was in the lower flat was notified.
There was collective effort to get the children out of the building but no one could give a proper explanation as to how the two brothers were trapped.
The House Mother said at one point she was personally helping one of the boys to escape while the House Father used a fire extinguisher to battle the blaze.
She said she was unaware when she lost him in the building. The Officers claimed that they placed many calls to the emergency number 911 and 912 but to no avail.
Green said while the staff compliment may not have been enough for the 31 children in the building at the time, efforts have been ongoing to reduce the numbers at what is to be a first stop for children who are separated from their parents.
The Director said well over $15 million was spent in recent months to refurbish the building and some of that money was spent on putting in fire extinguishers, fire alarm systems and fire blankets.
A handing over ceremony was scheduled for today for the recently renovated building.
Green said training of staff haa been ongoing while subject Minister Volda Lawrence admitted that while more could have been done, a lot was done since she assumed office last year.
The CC&PA is now working with the mother to see how they could help her and have her three other children returned to her in a safe and comfortable environment.
Investigations have so far revealed that fire started on the western section of the upper flat.
The Fire Service is still conducting its investigation.
Earlier on Friday, the President’s Office issued a statement of sympathy.
President David Granger is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic fire, which took the lives of two young children at the Children’s Drop-in Centre on Hadfield Street in Georgetown on Thursday night. The President mourns the loss life of these children, who will never have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances.
President David Granger also has in his thoughts the other children, who depended on the Centre, which is administered under the Child Care and Protection Agency, for shelter and support and who are, no doubt, traumatised by that horrific experience. The Head of State will work with the Ministry of Social Protection to ensure that counselling services are provided to the 28 children, who are now housed at the Sophia Care Centre.
According to initial reports, the fire at the Centre started at approximately 23:30hrs, where thirty children had been housed. Earlier this year, work was commenced on the centre to improve the conditions under, which vulnerable children were housed. At the time of the fire, the girl’s dorm had been completely refurbished and works were on-going on the boy’s dorm.
The circumstances of the fire are being investigated.