Minister of Justice, addresses urgent situation at New Start for Children Foster Home

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SAUNDERS, Sint Maarten — In response to recent developments regarding the structural integrity concerns at New Start for Children Foster Home in Mary’s Fancy, the Minister of Justice, Lyndon C.J. Lewis, in collaboration with the Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten (SJIS), is taking swift action to ensure the safety and well-being of the foster children residing there.

The recent article published in The Daily Herald Newspaper on Monday, May 6, 2024, brought to light the critical situation faced by 19 foster children who may soon need to relocate due to cracks in the building walls and foundation of the foster home. Led by long-time foster parent and home director, Mrs. Veronica “Sally” Benjamin, the Minister of Justice, Lyndon C.J. Lewis, and the Director of the Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten, Mrs. Cynthia Clarke-Filemon, conducted a comprehensive tour of the damaged facility and the neighboring construction on Saturday, May 11, 2024. 

During the tour of the foster home, Minister Lewis commended Ms. Benjamin for her dedication and the home’s condition, while emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the safety of the children and staff. Discussions ensued regarding various options for relocating the children, logistical considerations, and necessary resources pending official assessments from both government (VROMI) and private engineers.

“Time is of the essence in this matter,” stated Minister Lewis. “Our priority is to ensure a swift resolution that guarantees the safety and well-being of these children. We are committed to working closely with all stakeholders to expedite the process and minimize disruptions to the children’s lives.”

Mrs. Cynthia Clarke-Filemon, Director of the Foundation Judicial Institutes, will provide a detailed update to the Minister on Monday, May 13, 2024, including a proposed timeline for the relocation of the children if an alternative home is secured. For the proper care of the minors, it has been determined that a 4-bedroom home is needed to ensure their well-being and comfort. This accommodation will provide the necessary space and facilities to support their growth, development, and individual needs in a safe and nurturing environment.

Furthermore, Minister Lewis intends to personally engage with the contractor and engineer responsible for the repairs to gain firsthand insights into the situation and expedite necessary actions.

The Ministry of Justice, St. Maarten assures the public that every effort is being made to address this urgent situation promptly and effectively. Updates will be provided as the situation progresses.

At the end of the discussion, the Minister engaged with the minors and indicated that the welfare of these children is particularly close to his heart, being a father of five and a grandfather of one. He reassured the New Start Foundation and the SJIS of his commitment to ensuring the safety of the minors throughout this challenging time, emphasizing that they are not alone in this process and that their well-being matters deeply.