A 22-year-old Bequia woman has reached out to iWitness News as part of her efforts to get help for her 12-year-old sister, who has been referred for a mental health evaluation.
The development comes three months after the Family Court jailed the child’s mother for two years and three months for inflicting grievous bodily harm on her.
As is the case with all Family Court proceedings, the trial took place in camera, but sources familiar with the trial said that during the trial the child — who apparently appeared to be in fear of her mother –denied that her mother had injured her.
However, the court convicted the child’s mother for inflicting grievous bodily harm on her during a 2018 incident — when the child was 8 — that resulted in a broken arm.
“I need help. I really need help,” the older sister told iWitness News Monday night.
“It’s like I can’t get any help at all and I am going through a lot. It’s like all the burden is on my shoulders. I just need help,” said the woman, whose name iWitness News is withholding because of her sister’s age and situation.
The child was in foster care for the last four year, living in homes approved by the government, including a home for abused, economically-disadvantaged, or otherwise at-risk children.
However, in July, she was returned to her family, and her older sister said that the child’s behaviour is now worse than when Family Affairs removed her from their home four years ago amidst the allegation that their mother had broken her arm.
“I need them to help my sister. She needs a check-up. I alone can’t do it. I alone can’t keep leaving work, have to go to Kingstown to visit my mother [in prison], and then have to go carry my sister to the doctor.”
The woman told iWitness News that she, her 15-year-old sister, and the 12-year-old live with their father, but the responsibility for the care of her other siblings has fallen to her.
“He said he can’t deal with the child. Due to her attitude and mashing up things, picking up a knife, he said he was done with that,” the 22-year-old told iWitness News of their father.
“He said if our mother was here then she would have dealt with the child. The child is jumping out of her sleep and asking for the mother, all kinds of things.”
She said that her sister used to attend a pre-school on the northern Grenadine island, but did not graduate and was sent to The Sunshine School for Children With Special Needs, located in Bequia.
In 2018, when the child’s mother was accused of breaking her sister’s hand, Family Affairs placed her foster care in St. Vincent, and therefore, she was no longer attending school in Bequia.
The older sister told iWitness News that on July 8, she received a call from Family Affairs, telling her to come in and sign for custody of the child.
She said that the document was in her father’s name, and he had gone to the department two days earlier to speak to the workers there.
“I signed a paper with my father’s name on it, stating that I was responsible for the child,” the older sister told iWitness News.
The sister said she took the child back to their home in Bequia.
“She goes to the special needs school but the Welfare didn’t release any letters so she could go back to school. The principal just can’t take her back without a written letter. Because Welfare took her out of school without anything,” the woman said.
She said she spoke to the principal on Monday, who said that the school must receive a letter from the Social Welfare Department. However, the Social Welfare Department is referring her to the principal, the woman told iWitness News.
She said the child attends the Sunshine School For Children With Special Needs because “from my mother’s point of view, based on her behaviour, it’s like she’s suffering from a mental illness.
“She would suddenly mash up things and curse. If she is around her friends also, that is the same behaviour; she would fight them.
“She went to preschool but she didn’t graduate from the preschool, they just placed her in the special needs school.”
The sister told iWitness News that the child fumbles for words at times but communicates clearly most of the time.
She said she did not know what triggers her sister to smash things.
“I will say I don’t know what kind of mood she is sometimes in. Sometimes, she sits down and the next thing her hand is on something, she mashes it up, she curses, and that’s how she behaves. Since she came back here, it’s like she has gotten worse.”
The woman said that while her sister was in foster care their mother used to visit her and she (the older sister) also visited from time to time.
She said there was no issue of her sister knowing who she or their relationship was when she brought her home in July.
The woman said that because of her frustration in trying to get her sister into school, the child’s behaviour, the lack of family support and the response of the Family Affairs, she feels that she has no choice but to bring the issue to the media.
“One of the ladies, I was telling her how the child behaves. Hear her, ‘That is not my child.’ One of the ladies who works at Family Affairs.”
The woman said she had taken her sister to the doctor.
“Because of her behaviour the last time and she doesn’t sleep, the doctor sent me to a psychologist. I got back the paper today. They sent me Glen to the Mental Health Centre. But they said on Friday and I cannot go on Friday because I am working.”
iWitness News told the woman that the question that many people would ask is “Why doesn’t your father do some of this?”
“That is the same thing everybody is asking me,” she said. “The police also asked me why. I don’t know.”
The woman said that she has resorted to videotaping her sister’s behaviour.
She sent iWitness News two clips, both of which were recorded at night.
In one of the clips, the child, who appears to be crying, was saying that she had asked someone to use their phone and videotape someone else.
“You think I didn’t hear everything that you all said,” the child comments.
In another clip, the child is wearing the same clothes and appears to be crying. She said she is “not taking any lash from you.
“Not because you are my sister, I hate you and I wish you could die,” the child said.
She then walked to the roadside as a vehicle passed by and said, “I’d rather go in the road so that a van can lick me down.”
After the vehicle passed, she went into the road and said she would rather stand there so that a vehicle could hit her.
“I have to be videotaping her. That’s what I have to do most of the time,” the older sister told iWitness News.
She said that the incident, parts of which were recorded, began after the 12-year-old child smashed their father’s binoculars and cellular phone.
“And he was talking to her and telling her about her behaviour and her being rude and then she started to curse and she told him about his mother and then she went into the road,” the sister said.
“If you just simply sit her down and talk to her, she would jump up, run out in the road, even if it’s raining, she would be in the rain, up and down. I had to go to the [police] station two times because of that.”
The woman, however, said that her sister also behaves strangely in her sleep.
“She would jump out of her sleep and call my mother’s name, saying, ‘My mother didn’t break my hand.’ I want to know if she’s just imagining things or — I don’t know. ‘I need the welfare to send home back my mother or I’ll go and kill them.’ All these things she would say. I really want to know what is going on with the child. Sometimes, I am scared to sleep with her because we sleep in the same bed.”
The woman said she was also concerned about whether her sister was sexually abused while in foster care.
“Yeah, because when she came home, the kind of conversation. When our mother was here, our mother ensured that she protected us. We would not be on the street among boys. But the kinds of conversation she comes with. ‘When I been town (St. Vincent) … I used to have my boyfriend. I used to be on the street walking up and down.
“I have not taken her to a doctor so that the doctor can do a check to see if she is sexually active. But, when she came home, I saw certain things that caused me to wonder if that is the case,” the sister said.
The woman said that she plans to inform her parliamentary representative, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday about the situation.
“The reason why I say I am kinda like say suffering, my mother gone way (is in prison). I have to do everything. I have to take care of my sisters, make sure they have the school supplies, everything. Plus, I have some medical issues I am dealing with too,” she told iWitness News.