Lawrence failed to address issue

Dear Editor,

The effort wasted by Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence to defend her trips abroad, could have been better used to explain why, one year after I first submitted an application to adopt a child who’s biological mother I’m now married to, a child is being denied a father due to the incompetence of her stewardship in getting rid of an Adoption Board before a new one was even selected or approved by cabinet.

The life of the old Adoption Board officially ended on June 30, 2015, but could have been extended for an indefinite period until the new board was selected and approved by cabinet. Instead, in her own words, Minister Lawrence wrote, “Upon my assumption to office the Child Protection Agency (CPA) informed me that there were several matters still outstanding with the Adoption Board. As a consequence, I asked Ms Bibi Shadick, on June 24 to chair the meeting of the Board to conclude those outstanding matters which were before them prior to the May 11 polls. The Board met but was still unable to conclude all the outstanding matters, and on August 26 Ms Shadick was asked again to chair the Statutory Meeting in a bid to bring closure to those issues with assurances from me that that meeting would be the last she would have been asked to chair.”

Here lies the problem: the Minister of Social Protection knew that the Child Protection Agency had outstanding matters that had to be dealt with by the Adoption Board. She also knew, or should have known that it would take some time before a new board was selected and approved by cabinet. Yet without proper planning, she extended the life of the old Adoption Board by a mere one month, giving the Chairperson, Ms Bibi Shadick the assurance that “that meeting would be the last she would have been asked to chair.”

Was Ms Lawrence so desperate to get rid of the PPP/C appointed board that she ignored the cries of those children waiting to be embraced by a family they can finally call their own? Or was it a case of sheer incompetence on her part?

Editor, I spoke with Ms Bibi Shadick, and she assured me that she and other members of the board would have willingly stayed on to serve the interest of our children had Minister Lawrence asked her to do so. But this request was never made.

Ms Shadick was also adamant that the Adoption Board concluded all matters presented to them by the ministry at every meeting, and suggested that any such “outstanding matters” mentioned by the Minister may have been pending at the secretariat/ministerial level, of which she was unaware.

In her letter published in both Stabroek News (‘Never told MP Gill that adoption board would be instructed to meet on Sept 30’) and the Guyana Times on Monday, November 23, Minister Lawrence completely failed to address the issue I raised in my previous letters or even to mention when the new Adoption Board will finally meet to bring closure to many families.

Despite the insinuation made by Minister Lawrence that I was lying or as she puts it, I was being “deliberately careless with the truth” when I mentioned in a previous letter that she promised she would instruct the old Adoption Board to meet once more on September 30, 2015, she knows who is being deliberately careless with the truth. Why did she not deny making this promise when I requested an update from her during another sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday 22nd October? The subject never came up. During our brief discussion, she told me that cabinet had already approved the new board and she expects them to meet shortly. It is because of this that I called her office last week only to be told that the Minister was in Peru, and although the board was approved by cabinet, the Minister will decide when the board meets after she receives the letter from the Cabinet Secretary. It was this discussion that prompted me to reluctantly write my second letter on the subject which says in part, “Minister Lawrence should have ensured that this letter was expedited, paving the way for the Adoption Board to meet before she boarded the plane for Peru. But that was not her priority. “They seem to be more focused on trips abroad.”

“How can the Ministry of Social Protection commit to ‘strengthening and supporting families,’ and create windows of opportunity for our children by focusing the ministry’s energies on ‘strengthening the family unit’ when the Minister is always out of the country and no one else seems to have the authority to get things done in her absence.”

I was reliably informed that Minister Volda Lawrence will again be travelling overseas some time this week. She needs to be reminded that she has a duty to serve the people of Guyana, and that is where her focus ought to be. For while numerous boards have since been appointed and are functioning under the APNU+AFC administration, Ms Lawrence’s track record means nothing to the numerous children who need the security of a loving family as well as the most vulnerable among us, our elderly, if our dear Minister has no time in her busy travel schedule to get the Adoption Board up and running, nor to appoint members to serve on Local Boards of Guardians.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Gill, MP

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