Elliott Douglas, left, and Mark Fields, in the kitchen of The Sunshine League’s Children’s Home in 2009 after presenting executive director Denise Carey, centre, with a $30,000 cheque from Esso Bermuda. *File photo
Elliott Douglas, left, and Mark Fields, in the kitchen of The Sunshine League’s Children’s Home in 2009 after presenting executive director Denise Carey, centre, with a $30,000 cheque from Esso Bermuda. *File photo
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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31: Government will not take over the Sunshine League as its operating model is “unsustainable”, it was announced yesterday.

The home is expected to close its doors today.

Glenn Blakeney, Minister of Youth, Families and Sport made the announcement at a press conference.

He said Government conducted a review of the operation efficiency and the financial status of the Sunshine League in order to reach the conclusion.

But the Sunshine League said they were unaware that Government would not be taking over until the announcement was made.

Mr Blakeney said: “Government then assessed options for continuing residential foster care services offered by the Sunshine League, including assessing the viability of Government taking over operation of the Sunshine League residential children’s home.

“Regrettably, despite considerable effort on the part of both Government and the Sunshine League, today I must inform the public that it is not deemed viable for the Government to assume operational responsibility that would allow the Sunshine League to continue as a 24-hour residential care facility.”

Mr Blakeney said if Government were to take over the home, there would be a conflict of interest because government would be both operator and regular which would be contrary to the Children Act 1998.

He also said there were legal impediments with Government operating a children’s home that it doesn’t own.

The minister said in addition, the charity “declared its intent” to keep the name and continue fundraising.

“However, this is of great concern to government as the Sunshine League has indicated that it wouldn’t be willing to commit the funds derived from charitable donations towards the cost of Government operating the Sunshine League Children’s home as a 24-hour foster care facility.

“Moreover, it was made abundantly clear to us that the Sunshine League intends to continue accepting donations under the Sunshine League Children’s Home brand name even after it ceases to operate as a 24-hour residential foster care facility.”

Mr Blakeney said the charity could be in contravention of the Charities Act if it continues to solicit donations after they shut the doors.

Zakiya Johnson Lord, interim president of the charity, said: “It was misleading for the Minister to suggest that we could be in contravention of the Charities Act.

“As we stated in July, our focus is on meeting the needs of foster children in Bermuda and we have always been able to fundraise for purposes other than a 24-hour residential facility.

“We are responsible for a 24-hour residential facility until tomorrow.

Today we heard for the first time that the Government is unable to take over the running of a residential facility.”

She continued: “We will, therefore, now work to identify the growing needs of Bermuda’s foster care children and develop initiatives that enhance the lives and development of the foster children.

“These initiatives will require funding and we very much hope that our donors will continue to support them as we believe this is a cost-effective use of our donors money compared with the high-cost of running a 24-hour residential facility.”

She also said the charity has submitted papers to change the name from the Sunshine League Children’s Home to the Sunshine League.