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Another institution catering mostly to American youth facing allegations of abuse

US-based attorney Dawn Post
By Kimone Witter    
 
There are fresh allegations of abuse being levelled against another institution in Jamaica which caters to adopted American children with behavioural issues.
 
The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) has since launched an investigation at the Ministry of Education registered, Youth of Vision Academy (YOVA), in Port Maria, St. Mary.
 
The private Christian boarding school provides behavioural, therapeutic and educational services to majority non-nationals from the United States, seven years and older.
 
In response to queries, the CPFSA said it commenced its investigation on March 27, after US-based attorney Dawn Post made allegations of physical and sexual abuse, trafficking and food deprivation.
 
Ms. Post has made the allegations public after facing a roadblock in trying to get a 17-year-old ward at the facility released to the care of her guardian who had travelled to Jamaica.
 
Speaking Tuesday on TVJ's Smile Jamaica, the attorney said ten clients, aged 13 to 22, were interviewed and provided graphic details of physical and sexual abuse that they allegedly endured while at YOVA in recent years. 
 
"As a result, Homeland Security has initiated an investigation. In addition, there are allegations of sex and labour trafficking because many of these adopted youth have been abandoned by their adoptive families who don't plan for their return to the United States. So when these youth turn 18 and they've been abandoned, they have to work. And that has sometimes been sexual favours that they've been asked to do, but also to perform labour for work to get their passports and to earn money to return to the United States. Some have never made it back to the United States. And in fact, there are efforts to locate those youth in other islands," she revealed. 
 
Ms. Post said the Jamaica Constabulary Force has also taken an interest in the allegations. 
 
"JCF, to my understanding and from what I was told, was looking for a budget in terms of travelling to the United States themselves to interview my clients. This has now grown bigger because Canadian Child Protective Services became involved and rescued three of their own teenagers this past week. And...an investigation has now been referred to the Canadian Mounted Police based upon allegations by a Canadian citizen and survivor of YOVA." 
 
Co-founder of YOVA, Noel Reid, has denied the allegations and has directed queries to US attorney Ashley Martin. 
 
In the meantime, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency has said it does not have any evidence to substantiate allegations of abuse, to date, at Youth of Vision Academy.
 
The CPFSA, in an emailed response, said it does not have evidence to support the allegations of forced labour at the school.
 
It also said it has not received any formal complaint about operations at YOVA.
 
The agency did confirm that it assisted the Canadian authorities with the recent removal of three children from the facility.
 
In relation to claims by attorney Dawn Post that the CPFSA has not cooperated with releasing the 17-year-old child to American authorities, the agency said it has provided the Iowa Child Protective Services with guidance regarding how to proceed with effecting the release.
 
Atlantis Leadership Academy 
 
In the meantime, Ms. Post said the matter concerning the removal of eight teenagers from Atlantis Leadership Academy in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, following allegations of abuse, continues in the parish court.
 
The American-owned institution, which has been shuttered, cared for troubled teens.
 
Ms. Post, who has been assisting in the case, pro bono, said most of the boys have returned to the United States. 
 
"My understanding is that that school continues to be closed. I believe that the criminal case is continuing and there is an additional court hearing this coming Wednesday," she disclosed. 
 
She noted that: "Two of the youth that were remanded to the care and custody of CPFSA remain in Jamaica. And it's been very complicated in trying to secure their return, apparently, I believe, due to issues within the United States, in securing their placement in foster care in the states that they originally came from." 
 
Five employees of Atlantis Leadership Academy were charged with assault occasioning bodily harm, cruelty to a child and assault at common-law.
 
They were offered bail in April.
 
The private boarding school was not registered with the Ministry of Education.
 


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