The Sunshine League made a decision to shut their facility without  informing Government, Minister Glenn Blakeney said on Wednesday. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
The Sunshine League made a decision to shut their facility without informing Government, Minister Glenn Blakeney said on Wednesday. *File photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22: The Sunshine League made a decision to shut the facility without informing Government, it was announced today.

Glenn Blakeney, Minister of Youth, Families and Sport, spoke at a press conference today and said Government is in the process of conducting a review of the “operational efficiency and financial status” of the charity.

The charity announced yesterday that it would shut down its 24-hour residential care for foster children.

“The Ministry finds it curious that there was no mention in the press statement that over the past few months, the Ministry of Youth, Families and Sports has been engaged in active discussions with the board of the Sunshine League regarding its intent to abandon 24-hour residential foster care and was attempting to find a way forward that would allow the charity to continue offering residential foster care, which has been a core component of the Sunshine League’s charitable undertaking since its inception in 1919.”

Mr Blakeney said the Sunshine League did tell Government it was predicting a “shortfall” in donations and wanted to move to a different model.

The charity suggested Government take over the operating expenses and day-to-day costs, and lease the facility while they did fundraising on their own.

The Minister said Government expressed concern and then began the review but has yet to receive current financial information on the status of the charity.

“It was our hope that no action would be taken until the report by the internal management consulting section of the Department of Human Resources had been completed outlining options and recommendations for consideration.

“It was with great disappointment that the Ministry was advised that a press release had already been released indicating that the Sunshine League would make the transition away from residential care without waiting for the conclusion of the review.”

Mr Blakeney said his Ministry tried to request a meeting with the board but the release had already been sent to the media.

The Minister said efforts are being made to place the eight foster children who are between the ages of 12 to 17 years old.

Good Morning,

Yesterday, the Sunshine League Children’s Home announced that it will cease delivering 24-hr residential foster care effective on July 1st 2011. As the Minister of Youth, Families and Sports, I was surprised and disappointed by this announcement, especially because of the historical significance of this 92-year old institution and the invaluable contribution it has made to the lives of many Bermudians.  

The Ministry finds it curious that there was NO mention in the press statement that over the past few months, the Ministry of Youth, Families and Sports has been engaged in active discussion with the Board of the Sunshine League regarding its intent to abandon 24-hr residential foster care, and was attempting to find a way forward that would allow the charity to continue offering residential foster care, which has been a core component of the Sunshine League’s charitable undertaking since its inception in 1919.

The Board of the Sunshine League did indicate to the Government that they were predicting a shortfall in donations this year, and as a result wanted to move from the current residential model to a different model. The Sunshine League proposed that Government take over all the operating expenses of the facility, cover day to day maintenance costs, and lease the current facility from the Sunshine League, whilst the Sunshine League would continue to fund raise in its own name.

However, Government expressed concern with this proposal and, with the agreement of the Sunshine League, initiated a review of the operational efficiency and financial status of the Sunshine League, with a view towards assessing options for continuing the residential foster care services offered by the Sunshine League, including assessing the viability of integration with Government-operated residential services. This review was well underway when yesterday’s announcement was made. Government had requested, and is yet to receive current financial information regarding the financial status at the Sunshine League.

It was our hope that no action would be taken until the report by the internal Management Consulting Section of the Department of Human Resources had been completed outlining options and recommendations for consideration.  It was with great disappointment that the Ministry was advised that a press statement had already been released indicating that the Sunshine League would make the transition away from residential foster care without waiting for the conclusion of the review. As recently as yesterday, the Ministry reached out to the Board Chairperson with the intent to request a special meeting of the Board to address the unavailability of certain financial information that was impeding the progress of the review. However, the Ministry was advised that the release had already gone to press.

We find it interesting to note that the Sunshine League is seeking to transition its services to the wider foster care community, and there have been no formal discussions with the Department of Child and Family Services, which has statutory responsibility for foster care in Bermuda, as to how the Sunshine League proposes to accomplish this transition without duplicating efforts already being made by the Foster Parents Association, which is a well established charitable organization.  The theme of avoidance of duplication of effort among the over 400 charities in Bermuda was the thrust of my opening remarks at the last convening of inter-agency social services organizations a few months ago.  

Notwithstanding, the Ministry of Youth, Families and Sports is committed to continuing and completing the review of the Sunshine League and still believes that a satisfactory resolution can be found which would allow this 16-bed facility to continue to meet the residential needs of foster care children.

Thank You.