Welfare Division unable to deal with criminal aspect of child abuse says Jemma Azille-Lewis

Azille-Lewis (file photo)
It appears as if the Welfare Division has its hand tied when it comes to dealing with certain aspects of the abuse of minors in Dominica, especially the criminal part of the problem.
Coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Unit, Jemma Azille-Lewis, said  the Division deals only with the social aspect of child protection, contrary to what many people might think.
She spoke this week after several explicit videos, purportedly showing minors being abused, were widely circulated on social media, prompting calls by many for the Division to do more.
But Azille-Lewis explained why the Welfare Division cannot do a whole lot to address the matter especially from a criminal perspective.
“We are not the police,” she explained. “Sometimes persons mix us up with what the police do in terms of arresting and charging and bringing matters before the court for prosecution. The Welfare Division is responsible for the social aspect of child protection. We ensure that persons are educated, programs and activities are implemented.”
She went on to say the Division deals with matters such as when there is a need for family intervention from a social aspect and it does the social inquiry aspect of child protection.
“In terms of the criminal aspect, this is left to the police…” Azille-Lewis said.
She added that certain things have to be done before a child is removed from the home.
“We can remove children from certain homes but it’s a process where that matter has to go through the court,” she remarked. “We need police intervention to assist us in those matters. It is not what you see on television … it is much more than that. Certain laws have to be in place for you to be able to implement certain activities.
She said that the Division can put children in homes and alternate care but there is a process and that process has to ensure that the law is followed.

“And it is a matter that has to be brought before the court,” Azille-Lewis said.

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  1. November 26, 2018

    What a load of tripe this so called Coordinator is spouting! This is one of the most backward arguments I’ve heard on island regarding child sexual abuse.

    This woman is a Coordinator of the entire welfare department, which tells me that her position within this agency carries a lot of weight. But they can only deal with the ‘social aspect’ of child abuse? Really? How about employing a Multi-Agency approach, where you bring the police in from the initial stage of the child(ren) being abused within the home. Its a criminal offence, and all she speaks about is the ‘social aspect’ of children being sexually abused! This is an abomination. In civilised societies this would not even happen. But, in backward Dominica, where prominent men and men on the streets have a green light to continue to exploit and sexually abuse children and vulnerable adults.

    These children will become traumatised, and maybe the abused when grown will carry out the same.

    Nothing is in place to…

  2. victim
    November 26, 2018

    Jemma that is a very poor excuse ! Chances The house of safety,… what is there success rate ? How many children have they rehabilitate ? It is directly under the welfare Division and it is a failure.
    The children are not safe under you guys watch because all u deliberately look they other way.
    shame on you guys ! :!:

  3. Fedup
    November 25, 2018

    I would fire you for just making these comments. You can remove my child from my home if I beat them (which they did someone wrong) but if I sexually abuse them it’s not in your hands. BULL….!

  4. Simple Ignoramus
    November 25, 2018

    There is so much blame to go around as far as this matter is concerned. But let me start with the statute: Laws of Dominica, Chapter 37:50, Children and Young Persons Act. The statute needs to be amended ASAP. First, it defines a child as someone under the age of 14; no: let’s make children people under 18. Then, it references a “government training school” to place juvenile offenders. Where is that school located? It also references 11 juvenile courts sitting in 3 districts. I somehow haven’t heard of them. Do they meet in secret? Is the press barred from attending their sessions? And finally, in Part II, the penalties for cruelty to children are laughable! For conviction upon indictment, a $3,000 fine and 2 years in prison; for summary conviction, a $750 fine, and 3 months in prison. It’s no wonder the abusers are running amock! Let us put some teeth into the statute, then let us develop a vibrant, well-funded Child Welfare Division that realizes our children are our future.

  5. Angie
    November 25, 2018

    This is so sad. About 20-25 years ago, I remembered welfare going around homes trying to solve problems. Their approach was not quite professional since then.

    • Concerned Citizen No.1
      November 25, 2018

      I recall as well. Again, this is the law which empowers the welfare officer to protect the children and young persons of the country. Take a look at Section 7, 8, and 9…


      Further, with respect to limited resources (as may be the case) as expressed by concerned readers, please note that Section 8, subsection 2 (a) (ii)… makes provision to address such limitations – For example, district nurses, teachers, the DDOs, etc are available resources island-wide and should be leveraged.

  6. Iamanidiot
    November 25, 2018

    You are not the police, no one is asking you to go and kick in doors and arrest suspected abusers, but you should be able to gather evidence, talk to children, monitor and if needs be, bring your case to the police. You not supposed to say ” you not the police”. This division only acts when people start lighting up facebook. I guess laws cannot / will not be put in place because of the calibre of people that involve in that so technically, the division is useless.

  7. PoyZin
    November 24, 2018

    Hmmmm Ehbeh ….That is really something.

  8. youth
    November 24, 2018

    Thats all? with all the reports and all the videos and the prompting calls by MANY!
    That is all?
    the lady statement says “we are not the police wi”
    which basically says…we can’t do much about it. lololololol BIG JOKE!

    its clear that you people are not taking these matters seriously.
    wow Dominica! this is just badddd.

    they really say- who ever is in the kitchen feels the heat!
    yo wont care unless it haooens to u

  9. November 24, 2018

    I remembered speaking to this lady about adopting a baby and the way alone she questioned me I knew it wasn’t going to happen. The irrelevant questions I was asked and her funny facial expression was so not called for.. I guess being a single person is not a requirement for adoption.
    We want better homes for children but yet theses people don’t even know how to do there jobs. I was once a primary school teacher so I know all the horror stories coming out from the children. We all know that the Welfare Division are not police but they receive and investigate reports of possible child abuse and neglect. After receiving those information do they keep it to themselves? What action is taken?
    Azille Lewis you are in a profession I HOPE you love. I wonder how you all sleep at nights with all those child abuse cases and you all don’t do anything good about it. Very sad!! I could say more about this woman but DNO might not put my post up.

    • viewsexpressed
      November 25, 2018

      Vincia, I understand your passion and concern re the protection of our children for sexual, political, rape, abuses. These country`s political structure from 18 yrs ago is ruin and corrupt and lack any knowledge of Child protection principles. Let me strongly say to you that you must not just go about attacking or condemning civil servants within our corrupt system. It is profoundly unfair and unprofessional and is not helping. us civil servants. I understand how all of our colleagues in this failed state feel and operate with limited resources and corrupt labour government is in denial of how our island Domininca, nature isle has been exposed to their, corrupt poor governance just like we see poor parenting in the home on a daily basis. Trust me Gemma Azille and her team are not to be blamed, go blame and kick out Skerrit and his useless corrupted gang in and out of government for the state and failure of island. Dominica is in serious need of a change, we must kick out Labour. OUT.

      • Annon
        November 25, 2018

        I am not big on the gov’t, I too think there is a need for change after 18 years, but you all were the gov’t for 5 years and did nothing about this issue on child abuse and abusers. So you do not have a point here, none at all.

  10. Anthony P. Ismael MInister of Free Pampers
    November 23, 2018

    I have worked in Child Welfare and this process should be simplified. Once a report is made and there is evidence of child abuse, police officers should accompany welfare officers to the home and remove that child immediately from said home. That’s how it works in developed countries. Anything less, is a grand waste of time. It’s heartbreaking to see these videos and what’s being done to our children on the island. It feels like the Welfare Division has thrown in the towel. They need to advocate more and ensure that other branches of government work in concert with their efforts, to stem the current tide.

    • viewsexpressed
      November 25, 2018

      “It feels like the Welfare Division has thrown in the towel. ” Ismael, this is not true and not fair on the people of the Welfare Division. I know them very well for years and are exceptionally dedicated and are without the resources to follow on matters of child abuse & family protection. Their resources are limited, the services does not reach the urban & rural areas, their mileage is restricted, the welfare division is not visible and all we hear is clown Skerrit all over the world addressing other peoples welfare matters and this government don`t care for our children and families only to bribe them with Skerrit`s handout bobol money as our families deteriorate even more as there are no more bananas, oranges, grapefruit etc to export, but the big Labour boys are circled by passport money and their houses looks big and grand as our people are poor in overcrowded housing. Shame on you Skerrit & your corrupt acolytes within your excessive corrupt labour government. Get out Skerrit…

  11. viewsexpressed
    November 23, 2018

    “Welfare Division unable to deal with criminal aspect of child abuse says Jemma Azille-Lewis”. In this day and age we have this nonsense being reported. On matters of the Child and when CCF Director was there, we heard of challenges and intervening and partnership as far as Child abuse and protection is concerned. Now Mr Joseph has gone, we do not hear of any credible advocates in the protection and care of our children. I feel for you Azille and your colleagues, unsupported with lack of resources within the Welfare Division. The so called minster of Home Affairs is a waste and should pack up and Go Home to mind her own affairs, because children are not their priority. They are no good advocates and are blind to the reality of issues of child abuse, neglect and other forms of abuse. Francis Joseph was on point, visible, openminded, professional on matters and yet the service in Domininca under Skerrit has deteriorated big time with passports now priority, not our children. sad.

  12. Concerned Citizen
    November 23, 2018

    I wish to make reference to the following in an effort to inform readers who may not be familiar with the laws of the country relating to children and young persons.


    Please note that the titles of welfare officer and the probation officer are borne by the same employee of the state and such officer is charged under the Act to ensure the proper care, supervision and protection
    of children and young persons.

    While it is true that the prosecution of cases is reserved to the police as mandated by law, the welfare officer’s hands are not tied. On the contrary, in order to effectively enforce the provisions as set forth in the Act, the Division must work in collaboration with the police as prescribed under Section 7, 8, and 9.

    Further, the Welfare Division is able to seek legal advise and assistance from the Ministry of Legal Affairs in the form of representation with some of its cases before the magistrate courts.

    • viewsexpressed
      November 23, 2018

      Concerned citizens, thanks for your feedback, but from where I sit and has been observing for many years the Welfare Division and its committed staff has been put on the back burner, if not in the cupboards hidden. This Labour Government is a failure on the issues of the protection of Children. The resources are poor, the leadership at the ministry is poor and the service is poor, as a result. The Division has all of Domininca to serve and the resources within the division is limited, antiquated and seem tired, but not at the fault of the Welfare Officers but eh the Minister responsible for this Division. The service is not visible islandwide, so one cares of child reacting, it is child abuse that is the problem, the biggest one in the outer villagers mainly of concern but elsewhere also. Mot government departments are not well resources and the service does not reach out to the outer far village, so these people have been denied good quality service going over 18yrs now. Skerrit Go.

      • Same difference
        November 25, 2018

        In other words you care less about the law pointed out here from research by Concerned Citizen on the law, which might need some tweaking, but you just want Skeritt gone.

  13. Queen OfDiamonds
    November 23, 2018

    Then you ALL need to fire your INCOMPETENT selves and bring in people who will be able to “do much”!!! Dominica’s children are HURTING and are being HURT! “We cannot so much” is UNACCEPTABLE!

    • anonymous2
      November 23, 2018

      Things are out of control in this country.

    • viewsexpressed
      November 23, 2018

      Yes, the Welfare Division needs leadership, mature people, strong leadership and professionally apt to manage this crucial most needed service. The service hardly reaches the entire island and there are no officers based outside of Roseau more or else embedded within the rural villages, and we have Skerrit with a bunch of 18 waste of time immature apolitical clowns as ministers of Disgusting political business..

  14. Advocate
    November 23, 2018

    Indeed their hands are tied coupled with the politics. Welfare operates as a dump. The powers that be has no interest in that division. So incest and child abuse will always increase. The laws have to change first of all and the ill intent of the politician to use as an extension of the red clinic.

  15. Okay
    November 23, 2018

    Maybe i dont understand, but to me she doesnt make any sense ” We are not the police”. Nobody said they were. Welfare Officers should at lease get in contact with the children every week or month. Check up on them to make sure that there needs are being catered. She should atleast educate the readers on the process to having a child removed from an abusive home… It does not have to take the media to realise that the Division has more work to do

  16. Ibo France
    November 23, 2018

    This is the unvarnished, undeniable truth. All the public institutions in Dominica are grossly compromised. Dominica suffers from “Go to your Minister” syndrome. To receive any government job or contract, no matter how small or large, it has to be at the behest of a minister of government. The best person for a government job is rejected in favor of a political diehard who does not have the requisite intellect for the tasks at hand. The entire civil service is laden with political functionaries who feel obligated to please their demigod, Dr.² Skerrit and not the people.

    • Brrrrr
      November 23, 2018

      Well my friend this is the Political system not only of Dominica but of the Caribbean. Our Constitution and structure of governance is contrary to a proper democracy no matter what party is placed in power. The only way this will change is if we have a re structure of our legal systems until then things are going to be left as is.

  17. Kevin
    November 23, 2018

    Worst goverment establishment
    in Dominica.

  18. Shaka Zulu
    November 23, 2018

    The police is too busy doing political work and many of them are guilty of abuse. I whave two suggestions. Hire a full time laywer and aske parliament to give power of enforcement to the welfare department. Any citizen can arrest someone for criminal activity. One thing in Dominica we always have a reason why we cannot do something insteat of finding solutions for what seems to be serios problems.

  19. Debate
    November 23, 2018

    As far as I am concern Welfare Division is now a waste of time.

  20. Watching...
    November 23, 2018

    It’s obvious why the authorities are not interested in taking these kinds of cases seriously. It’s either they are guilty of the crime themselves or they have friends who are guilty of it. For that reason, I don’t expect the laws to change any time soon because that law was made to protect men and rapists. Unless people start taking to the streets and demanding something be done nothing will be done. We need to threaten the government with our votes – give them an ultimatum. See how fast they will act.

  21. Concerned Citizen
    November 23, 2018

    That not making sense, I understand what she saying inno but allu not even trying to protect dem children with that type of attitude. welfare in other countries do take children from places of abuse, nobody not telling u to arrest the abuser, you simply have to protect the child. you saying socially, but society is made of laws– why not have a team of lawyers? have more sense man, too much coshoney does be happening in d.a in dem days.

  22. A. George
    November 23, 2018

    DNO can you ask her what is the process??? like I am reading what she says but I now have more questions than answers… what is the process? at least fully inform the public.

    • Tired of their system
      November 23, 2018

      Also, even with the PROCESS, there are certain situations that call for urgent action and while managing the situation take legal action. You trying to tell me legal process takes all of 3-5 years to allow children to get abused, grow up reach 18 then you claim they are adults so they now need to state their own case if they wish? Is that the process.

  23. Iamanidiot
    November 23, 2018

    If it was linton that had do something see how fast it would have laws to handle it but since I know myself I know stories of children getting abused, more than 20 years later nothing yet can be done.

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