SEPTEMBER is a busy month with a lot of events and activities. It is Education Month and Amerindian Heritage Month and our children go back to school. Then, before you know it, parents are helping their children prepare for school sports. For us here, at the Childcare and Protection Agency, (CPA) the last week in September, 23rd – 29th is Child Protection Week and events are being planned by CPA officers in the different regions of Guyana, to heighten public awareness on reporting and preventing child abuse. (as well as fun activities)
Every year we have a theme and this year’s theme is, ‘Supporting families to prevent child abuse, through education and community involvement.’
Supporting families to prevent child abuse: At the CPA ,we support families by firstly, working to keep them together. It is a fact that children strive best in a family setting, surrounded by people they are (biologically) linked to and love. Unfortunately for some children, their parents cannot provide a suitable home for their health, development and well-being and this puts them ‘at risk.’
For instance, a report was made to the CPA recently, about three children who were being left on their own for days while their parents went out and about. On investigation, the children were found in a small shack without adult supervision. There was barely any food in the home and the children slept on pieces of cardboard in a corner of the room. The eldest child, who was about eight -nine years old, could not remember the last time she attended school.
These children were left in a vulnerable situation, where predators and/or paedophiles may have taken advantage of them. Luckily, due to a thoughtful neighbour, their plight was reported, investigated, and the children were taken to a place of safety until further enquiries and a plan of action could be devised. But when their parents do show up, (if they are not charged with child neglect and sent to prison), will they be prepared to work with the CPA to help provide an adequate home for the long-term care of their children? With CPA support, would they be willing to take part in our ‘parental skills training’ programme and work towards fixing up their home to make a better life for their family?
Some parents refuse to do anything to help themselves or their children. However, many families have benefited from the help of the CPA and have moved on to better, brighter times.
…through education and community involvement: Each week through social media and indeed this newspaper, we aim to educate the general public about preventing child abuse.
In addition to this, our varied advertisements are broadcast on radio and television in different regions of Guyana. For this year so far, we have held a sensitisation seminar for the police, parental skills training programmes, locally and as far away as Kwakwani and teenage pregnancy prevention workshops, in different regions of Guyana. Our aim is to impart and disseminate information that is imperative in the prevention of child abuse. But we are also well aware that behaviour change does not happen overnight and we therefore need to employ a number of varied communication approaches to reach and educate the public.
To this end, earlier this year, we held a ‘special meeting of religious organisations’ with the aim of forming a partnership for the protection of children and support for families. When it comes to passing on valuable information, religious bodies have the monopoly on large congregations and ‘listening ears.’ Therefore, they are in a key position to play a very valuable role in preventing child abuse in Guyana. One of the biggest challenges that we have at the CPA when it comes to community involvement is the lack of commitment and initiative. If people could learn to be more pro-active when they suspect abuse, then innocent lives could be saved. Instead of just calling the CPA hotline and making a report, think! ‘What can I do in the interim to protect the children concerned?’ This is where members of the community can get involved: they can band together and make their concerns known to their religious leader for him/her to take action, or they could confront the abusive parent and let him/her know that his/her behaviour is against the law.
Depending on the situation, children could even be removed from their home and cared for by neighbours, until CPA officers arrive. These are just three suggestions that may or may not be suitable, because each situation needs to be analysed before community members take action. But there is safety in numbers, and adults should feel confident enough to join forces to protect children from abuse. Every adult should be a child protector.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or email email@example.com
A Message from the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ministry of Social Protection