Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency Ann Greene says as of October 2019 there were 3,752 reported child abuse cases. This is a 6.2 per cent reduction from 4,000 cases which were reported in 2018.
According to Greene, there was a steady increase over the last few years in reports of child abuse which she credited to the agency’s heightened awareness messages on child abuse.
The Director was speaking at the agency’s annual staff conference on Wednesday hosted at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.
She explained that neglect topped the chart with the most cases followed by sexual abuse. There were 1,729 neglect cases and 890 cases of sexual abuse this year.
She further noted that in more than 50 per cent of these cases, the perpetrators are a family member.
“The hurt for children is in the home; by the end of October 2019 we responded to 3,752 cases of child abuse reports and the main perpetrators are members of the family, the others which include strangers amount to 14.9 % of that total and this is ironic since the home is where the child should be safe,” Greene said.
The Childcare and Protection agency was voted as the hardest working in the Ministry of Social Protection and held a number of programmes targeting parents and teens this year.
The Director said 271 parents participated in the positive parenting programme while 223 teenagers participated in the pregnancy empowerment programme.
The Director highlighted that the agency faced challenges because of three core units and facilities which are not currently available.
She said there is a vital need for the establishment of a pediatric mental health unit.
“We have children as young as five and six years old that needs special mental health treatment. We might be able to save them from having serious mental health issues if we get this mental health looked at the early stages,” the Director noted.
The Director also highlighted the need for a processing centre for juveniles.
She explained that when juveniles come into contact with the law they boldly tell police officers that they cannot be charged because they under the age of 14.
“We can’t have juveniles running around and doing things and say that they cannot be charged, what we need is a processing centre so together with social services we will assess these children,” the Director said.
She also spoke about a restricted care facility to deal specifically with out of control children and also a child development centre which would be similar to a boot camp.
“They are children who are seriously out of control and if we don’t address it now something is going to happen and we are going to have a crisis situation on hand,” the Director said.
The Director encouraged the staff at the conference to go after professional and skill set development to better deliver quality service.
For the upcoming year, the Director said the agency will be focusing more on strengthening families with the support to keep their children safe.
“This is the goal post for 2020; more has to be done with the families to save the children.”
It was also noted that the use of a storybook in schools which highlights safe and unsafe touching is expected to be launched in the New Year.