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‘Social Development has failed me’ - Jean Wharton Cato-Matthias

- alleges NDP Government tried to silence her
Ms. Jean Wharton Cato-Matthias complained bitterly of being failed by the Social Development Department, an arm of government that should have been able to hold her hands in time of need. Photo: VINO
The woman credited Representative for the Third District, Honourable Julian Fraser, RA who has reportedly cast a ray of hope for her. Photo: VINO/File
The woman credited Representative for the Third District, Honourable Julian Fraser, RA who has reportedly cast a ray of hope for her. Photo: VINO/File
The Social Development Department has declined to comment on the case. Photo: VINO/File
The Social Development Department has declined to comment on the case. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Ms. Jean Wharton Cato-Matthias' tears are flooding her pillows at nights and soaking face towels at day as she struggles to grapple with the harsh realities that she finds herself in.

The arms that were created by systems of government reportedly continue to fail her and her only hope at this stage is the comfort of an opposition leader.

Ms Cato-Matthias’ name and problems became a public feature recently when her 12 year old daughter, Siriena Wharton, went missing. The child has since been found and is in the care of the state presently and according to the mother, efforts are being made to have her reintegrated into the school system as early as today.

When the system fails who do you turn to? 

Ms Cato-Matthias requested to have her story made public as she said that she has no one to turn to and her only counsel comes from the public subsequent to her speaking out. In an exclusive interview with Virgin Islands News Online, she said that her ordeal started over ten years ago or even longer as she struggled to maintain her children without an income as she was without a job.

“Social development failed me all the way and they continued to fail me. I wasn’t working for ten years and in that time, only two times did they assist me with grants,” she alleged.

Her situation become more complicated after her husband allegedly walked out on her and she started facing some major challenges with her children with some constantly running away because they were not getting the things they needed from her.

“I love all my child[ren], I had no work and I tried to do my best to give them what I could but the system that was to be helping me failed me and that same system took them away from me and is working against me today,” she further stated.

With the advice and encouragement of a friend while on the quest to be gainfully employed, Ms Cato-Matthias alleged that she did everything that was necessary to acquire a stall at the Crafts Alive Village but was turned down.

Further, she was not provided a job after returning from a government sponsored study stint in Jamaica where she was duly certified as a caterer.

Honourable Fraser to the rescue

The distraught woman said that during her time of struggle, her only hope of support came from Representative for the Third District Honourable Julian Fraser RA who she said would save the day many times for her.

“He helped me with whatever he could and was and is still like a father to me. He couldn’t do everything for me but he helped me along the way.” She said for some time she had moved on but recently had no recourse but to return to seek the guidance and assistance of Hon Fraser. 

Discipline and abuse

She told the painful story of how she lost her first child who is now 14 years old and has serious medical conditions. “She is epileptic and I know how to deal with my child [but] they put her in a home that don’t know how to care my child and [are] abusing her,” alleged Ms Cato-Matthias.

She explained that one morning, she had disciplined the child before leaving for school. The child was reportedly not pleased about being disciplined and allegedly complained to the school which called in the Social Development Department.

“No one called me or nothing all I know after not seeing her return home I did some investigations that when I learnt that they took her away and wasn’t going to give her back to me, this was a year ago.” She further said that since that child was taken she was never told where she was or offered the opportunity to visit her.

“That’s my child she loves me and I love her and one year pass and they haven’t one day told me where she is or allowed me to visit her,” alleged the woman. In addition she claimed that other siblings are usually in contact with each other and were recently told the painful story of the child being badly burnt. “I don’t let her iron her clothes because I know of her condition. They left her to iron her school clothes and like she had a seizure at the same time. She fell and the hot iron fell on her and burn up her hand and nobody, nobody till this day hasn’t said a word to me.”

Her other children are also out of her care, most being with the family of their biological fathers. At that time I wasn’t working they keep running but now I have a fixed income and I need my children, I really need my children,” cried the woman.

Hopes of reuniting with 12 year old shattered

Ms Cato-Matthias said that she had every hope of being reunited with her 12 year old after she was found but the failing system struck again. “Since they found her and brought her into the country I was told by the juvenile cop that she came into the country at 3 and the last thing I heard that she was going to be in the care of the state.”

She alleged that once in the hands with social development all communication ceased. It was not until her concerns about not being given the opportunity to see this child since her return as was reported on this news site that she received a call on Friday afternoon asking her to visit the office of social development to see her daughter.

She said that she was being made to work with the very officer who had taken away her first child. Her efforts to have to deal with another officer were denied despite being taken to the highest level.  At the time of making contact about visiting her daughter, she was in the presence of a reporter of this news site.

She called the office of the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Health and Social Development, Ms Petrona N. Davies and was referred to Ms Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe in her quest to have another case worker to deal with.

“I cannot work with her, she is the culprit who took my daughter, I cannot work with her (name called),” she alleged. With all hopes high she spent in excess of half an hour relating her story to Ms Stoutt-Igwe. In the end she did not get the assistance she was looking for but was advised to stay away from the media as Stoutt-Igwe alleged that going to the media was doing more damages.

She alleged that having to face the same case worker was met with further threats as while being taken through the steps to see her daughter she was threatened by the officer not to record their conversation.

Attempts to secure a response to the allegations from the Social Development Department were futile. This news site was advised that it is against protocol for the Department to discuss matters of any client with the media or otherwise with person/s outside of the immediate family line of that client.

44 Responses to “‘Social Development has failed me’ - Jean Wharton Cato-Matthias”

  • blogger (27/01/2014, 07:56) Like (33) Dislike (1) Reply
    Can we, as citizens, as parents, as humans, at this time not use the blog to bring further torture to this situation (parent and child)? I have read the blogs on all news site, and I realise that many of us don't care how we use our keyboard to pull another person down, whether we know the truth or not. Please people, not many of us are doing anything to help neither the child nor the mother, and at the end of the day, these are the only 2 persons that have to live with what's going on.

    I too, am very much aware of the lack of Social Development to bring division, instead of giving meaningful help to both parent and child. As far as I am aware, their concern should not only be for the child, but if the parent is facing difficulties, there are ways and means in which their intervention can bring the situation to a stage where families can be united. This isn't always done. At this time, I pray God's intervention in this very sensitive matter, and all who are involved in assisting mother and child, will use wisdom, understanding and divine guidance.
  • Hmmm (27/01/2014, 08:04) Like (64) Dislike (7) Reply
    Whilst this story may come across as sad there are a number of problems here. How does a BVIslander not find work for 10 years? Why keep making children when apparently they cant be looked after? Why keep having different men father children? Why should the state pay you? This is a glaring example of what is wrong in society, and some people shouldn't be allowed to have children.
    • Pana (27/01/2014, 09:19) Like (6) Dislike (2) Reply
      Dude this is the problem all over the world!
    • time will tell (27/01/2014, 10:56) Like (13) Dislike (2) Reply

      You need to find out how well Social Development know this lady and her situation (Children). Find out how long your and my tax money supported them. Why did she have more kids? They all lived with her before. Find out why they don't live with her anymore. We must all remember that people cant be helped unless they really want to be helped. There are some rare cases where no matter how hard you try to help them, it does not work.

  • Abby (27/01/2014, 08:36) Like (41) Dislike (0) Reply
    All this information is well known among the community and has shadowed the original story. The question still has not been answered as to who took and had the child in St Thomas. This story has gotten off track as to the little girls disappearance for one month. Who is responsible or does anyone care?
    • @Abby (27/01/2014, 09:39) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
      Abby, if the state removed her from her mother, who then is responsible for the child?

      Why the mother had to go police station for the child if the mother was considered no longer the guardian of the child?

      Do you not know that if a mother wants contact with her child once the SDD is involved that mother MUST go through SDD? She just cannot contact the person whenever she wants to....that there are scheduled contact periods?
      • Abby (27/01/2014, 20:00) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
        O.K.....I am well aware of that, but my original question is the who had the child and who took her to St Thomas..this still hasn't been answered.
  • WHY? (27/01/2014, 09:22) Like (16) Dislike (1) Reply
    Why is going to the media doing more damages?
    Why was it not reported to the SSD, who apparently placed this child with someone else other than her mother, that she was out of the Territory?
    Why didn't SSD, "the state", report this child as missing...afterall, they removed her from her mother!?
    Did SSD place this child with someone not fit to care for her well being?
    SSD you have a lot to answer to! It is you all protocol that the biological parent has no contact with the removed minor UNLESS that parent goes through the SSD. So, public, think about it? Why are u not hearing from the SSD? Were they negligent in their duties concerning the welfare if this child? If this child was in the care of the state when she went missing, how is the mother responsible?
    Why did the mother had to go to the police station in December 2013 to pick up the child if the child was removed from her by the state and placed with others the SSD considered more fit than the mother?
    Why didn't the police contact SSD concerning the runaway they had in their care?
    Why can the mother not have her case worker at SSD changed?
    Aaah may boyyy....a lot more questions got to be answered?
    • blogger (27/01/2014, 11:42) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
      Right on target @ WHY. They're not responsible when the end result isn't in their favor. Once they have a beef with you, your goose is cooked. Our social services has been a disgrace for years. I know of women who has issues such as depression etc, but that doesn't make them unfit. They just need some help and not to be further chastised. I am not getting up into the women's business as to whether or not she should make children - that's not for any of us to determine.
  • To Be Exposed (27/01/2014, 09:43) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    The Social Development Department needs to be exposed. Why you think the mother wants the conversation to be taped? There are trust issues. She cannot trust them people....
    • rainbow (27/01/2014, 10:18) Like (17) Dislike (1) Reply
    • @ To Be Exposed (28/01/2014, 07:37) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
      Knee jerk reactions and faux outrage help little.
  • qc (27/01/2014, 09:52) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    hope others will tell the other side which is the truth
  • saying (27/01/2014, 10:10) Like (1) Dislike (11) Reply

    She better be careful what she say before she gets herself in trouble for her mouth.

  • Donald E. de Castro (27/01/2014, 10:29) Like (32) Dislike (2) Reply
    • Agree (28/01/2014, 22:34) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Mr. Decastro, I fully agree with you. I too like many others have been a victim of their ill will and if I couldn't stand for my rights I might have been in this lady's shoes.
    • kishmet (29/01/2014, 14:14) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      your right mr decastro
  • To Be Investigated (27/01/2014, 10:30) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    Them working with others to frustrate people to lose them jobs so they can have grounds for taking people children.
  • vex (27/01/2014, 10:42) Like (0) Dislike (3) Reply
    If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
  • Thinking (27/01/2014, 10:58) Like (17) Dislike (1) Reply
    Ok, i'm not about to start bashing but I can't help but ask the question & i'm not the only 1. If you as a female know you're struggling & already have a kid or 2 why oh why do you continue to have more & with different men. Why don't women understand that at the end of the day it's the kids that suffer the most. I am a single mother of 2 (15 & 5) and under no circumstances am I going to have anymore though I have a decent paying job, decent home, pay my own bills, provide for my kids with whatever they need & sometimes want. I'm far better off than Jean & i'm conscious enough to know that i'm not bringing anymore kids because 1 question looms over my head that I don't know the day I could lose my job and then what will happen to my kids.

    Personally I don't trust SD, I don't trust the legal/court system based off my recent experience with them. So much so I broke down in tears & had to suck it up, walk outta there & begin the process of battling even harder to protect & guide my eldest. It's a struggle but i'm fighting it with everything I have because i've already set my mind to the fact there's no help from these ppl. This place is just sad & backwards as hell. What needs to be done is a thorough investigation as to what is going on with Jean & her family & also how her daughter ended up in st thomas, how long she was there & with whom. Mother & children need counselling. Come on ppl do ya'll damn jobs you getting paid for!
    • Do U Know? (27/01/2014, 12:41) Like (4) Dislike (3) Reply
      Today you far better off than Jean, but do you know what tomorrow holds? Will Jean be far better off than you tomorrow?
      • Thinking (27/01/2014, 14:32) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
        To "Do U Know" that's why I said I don't know the day I could lose my job then what happens to my kids. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing. I didn't say what I said to make it seem as though i'm showing off no, I meant it to say that even though my life may be a bit easier or better for a lack of a better word compared to Jean, I know that I will not bring anymore lives into this world. No one knows what the future holds & I could go into my job tomorrow & be told sorry we don't require your services anymore then what would I do then. I worry more about my kids than myself because they are more important in my eyes than my own life.
    • @Thinking (27/01/2014, 12:50) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
      Thinking, this place is demonic...full of demonic activity carried out by demon possessed people...disloyal, pleasure seeking, idolaters, ungrateful back stabbers, liars, blasphemers....

      People are simply evil towards one another. It boils right down to that...
      • True (27/01/2014, 21:31) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
        Also with soooo many churches in the place and almost everybody claiming to the Christian and this place has this much demonic activity? Something to think about.
    • facts (27/01/2014, 13:43) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
      don't you know that's how life is? Check out Africa and Haiti. In the midst of poverty and social chaos, its the poor and less fortunate who always have the most children. A homeless and unemployed person wouldn't choose to get pregnant because they cant afford a doctor or an effective means of birth control. I would not dare ask any woman, including the lady involved here why she has so many children - that's not a question for you or I to ask, and its quite out of anyone's place to suggest that she shouldn't have bore them. What is important NOW is that they are here, and we as so called "Christians" need to show more love to the less fortunate and give to the poor. That is who Christ is, and who the "Christ" in us should be. Not to condemn anybody.
      • TRUTH TELLER (28/01/2014, 17:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        There is a simple way to avoid having more children which costs nothing
  • weed (27/01/2014, 11:20) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    this article is a sobering reminder of the consequences of the social ills and child nelet in this place
  • You Don't Need (27/01/2014, 12:25) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    You don't an Associate, a BA, or a PHD to take care of children. My grandmother had 7 and all she hot was 25 cents a month for raising them. My other grandmother was a housewife and she looked after other people children.

    Look now, you got PHD sitting in an office, pushing pen and paper and telling loving caring mothers how to raise children, calling them negligent and unfit and then they turn around and let a 12 year old leave the Territory. To this day, you can't get answers from these people concerning a child them took from its mother and who went missing for a whole month in another man's country. They themselves even appear not to have file a missing child report with the police.
  • foreign (27/01/2014, 14:55) Like (17) Dislike (2) Reply
    After reading all these insulting comments about this mother, you have to wonder who are you people living in my country of Tortola BVI. You are the worst set of evil, wicked, bad mind, jealous that was created on this earth. You have no heart for men or beast, I read these blogs everyday and I don't think its educated people making such comments. The bible says you must love your neighbor as yourself, do good to those who wrong fully use you. HAVE A HEART , People of the BVI, If you cannot give educational advice , don't say anything at all. Today for Jean and tomorrow for you. Stop looking down at a man, only if you are willing to pick them up. Take the log out of your eyes before you try to take the stick out of your sisters and brothers eyes. Stop writing your negativity. Peace out.
    • @foreign (27/01/2014, 15:45) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
      Most of these blogs are bashing at the system, SDD, as they should rightfully be since, they took the child from her mother and the child ran away under their care and not under the mother's care. Note too, the child was overseas for a whole month, unreported to the authorities. If it wasn't for the mother who got involved the middle of this month that child would probably still be missing today.

      So please read the blogs carefully and you will see that the entire blame rests solely on Social Development. After nearly another day gone, they still have not come forward as to what really happened to this child they removed from the care / guardianship of the mother. The public wants answers and we want it now!

  • BOL (27/01/2014, 15:27) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Who to the rescue ????? Snake in a bag!
  • At SDD (27/01/2014, 15:51) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    SDD, we the public are waiting for answers. This is now a matter of the people of this land. We are paying you every month, every year out of the tax kitty. So please do not have us waiting too long.

    But then again, if this child is truly an American citizen, then is it likely the FBI are now involved and SDD cannot be forthcoming?
  • rattie (27/01/2014, 17:06) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    we want to hear from the government on this case
  • tell the truth (27/01/2014, 17:47) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    There are several issues involved here. The main ones are if she is telling the entire story
  • jtv (28/01/2014, 06:53) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    This is a sad story all around
  • fake (28/01/2014, 07:34) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    We love to act surprised when things like this happen
  • big girls rules (28/01/2014, 23:45) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    its clear that women and children are under attack in this lil lil place...not one women in the NDP cabinet so no one to feel our pain
  • in the news (30/01/2014, 09:18) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Fraser is clearly a man who thinks before he acts!
    One Love!
  • CALL IT (31/01/2014, 12:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    see fraser is the only one who truly cares

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