Fifty-one percent of child abuse cases investigated by the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) between January and October 2020 were perpetrated by mothers. Fathers accounted for 26 percent of the recorded cases, step-parents 8 percent and relatives – 6 percent.
The troubling figures were disclosed on December 16, 2020 during CPA’s annual staff conference, which was held virtually under the theme, “We are in this together: working with children and families in the New Normal for 2021”.
Nationally, Region 1 recorded the highest rate for all categories of child abuse with 17.8 per 1000 children, followed by Region 7 with 15.2 per 1000 children and Region 3 with 15.1 per 1000 children.
While neglect was the highest form of abuse followed by sexual abuse, Ann Greene, CPA’s Director stated there was a decrease in child abuse reports for the corresponding period – January to October 2020 – when compared to previous years.
“The total child abuse reports for the period [Jan to Oct] were 2,761 as against 3,757 in 2019 and 4,368 in 2018. This represents a 26.5% decrease when compared to the previous year (2019) …but this by no means signal a decrease in child abuse. It is more under-reporting due to children being more confined to the home environment,” Ms. Greene explained.
She added, “Already there are trends surfacing that highlight women and children are at greater risk of abuse and harm in the home at this time of the pandemic when they are out of public view … in lockdown situations with abusers. To think of a man setting fire to the house where his wife and two lovely young daughters are inside and burning them alive. I have not yet wrapped my head around that…. then to learn of the child that is fighting for her life in the hospital after being lashed on the head and tossed in the swamp reportedly by her mother. These are the latest of the number of horror stories that gripped our attention during the year.”
CPA found that the contributing factors for child abuse during COVID-19 were stress, anxiety, economic uncertainty, mental health and addiction, and according to Ms. Greene the Agency and the Ministry have recognised that increased services and assistance for children and families at the community level are needed and these are going to be reflected in the work programme for 2021.
Meanwhile, the Agency’s Social Workers were applauded for their hard work despite the many challenges they face, including high caseloads. Describing them as the “unsung heroes” for children’s welfare, the Director pledged to “develop strategies to deal with these challenges”.
“Accordingly, we will be using new approaches to combat same in the new budget. We will be working towards reducing the caseloads by lobbying to get more key staff by getting all the vacant positions filled and extending the Partnership Development Programme – getting more NGOs, CBOs, FBOs and other civil society groups and key Service Agencies to join forces with the Ministry ensuring there is enough services and supports available to meet the psychosocial needs of vulnerable children and families,” she added.
A snapshot of CPA’s 2021 Work Programme
According to Ms. Greene, the Agency will be concentrating on providing assistance to families by increasing services and social network support systems at the community level in 2021. One such strategy to effect positive changes is a Family-Centered and Strength-based Approach.
“This Approach involves building positive partnerships with the family and identifying their strengths and build on it. It is based on the idea that all families are different and there is no right way to do things, so working in partnership with the family and assisting them in their culture patterns to make their own decisions,” Ms. Greene explained.
Also high on Ms. Greene’s agenda is the prevention of separation of children and to return children from children’s home and orphanages to their families if they can and if they cannot provide them with a family through the Adoption Service.
[Ministry of Human Services and Social Security]