CHILDCARE and Protection Officers are tasked, at some point, with going into the field to investigate reports that are made to the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) about child abuse. This is the most sensitive and dangerous part of their job.
During their investigation, they will inevitably come face to face with an adult and there is no guarantee that the person they meet will be cooperative or friendly. All they can be sure of is the fact that a report was made on behalf of a child or children in the household and there is a possibility that a child or children are ‘at risk.’
Apart from the fact that officers can never foresee what type of reception they will receive, they also have no idea how the adult/parent will react to their enquiry. Walking into the unknown, the unfamiliar and unwelcoming territory is not for the weak-hearted.
Parents who receive CPA officers into their homes are usually apprehensive. There is a myth that has been going around for some time, that the CPA ‘does come and tek way people children.’
While it is true that some dire circumstances have left the CPA no choice but to remove children from danger, it is always the ultimate goal of the agency to reunite families, once the problem is fixable. This entails parents cooperating and working alongside CPA officers over some time.
Sometimes, parents are actually ‘in over their heads’ but unaware of the fact that they are not coping. They go through their daily routines and do what they can for their children, with the best of their limited ability. As a result, children can end up being neglected, malnourished, physically or sexually abused or put ‘at risk’ of the same. When parents fail to reach the basic needs of their children, they need assistance.
Guyana is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of a Child that clearly states that children have the right for their basic needs to be met, firstly by their parent/carers and if not by them, then by the state. (Government)
The CPA has devised parenting-skills workshops and teen-pregnancy prevention programmes among other preventative work and awareness strategies, aimed at the community level, to prevent child abuse and family breakdown.
In fulfilment of the CPA’s mandate, their officers do their part to enforce the law. If you were a neglected or mistreated child, wouldn’t you want to know that there are people in the world who are championing your cause to give you at least a fighting chance of a reasonable childhood?
Recently, a mother was brought to the attention of the CPA through an observant neighbour whose home is situated obliquely across from a house that is suspected of selling illicit drugs. The neighbour called the CPA to report that not only was the mother a frequent visitor to the ‘home’ but has, on occasions, brought along three small children, one of which was a babe in arms.
When the investigation was set in motion and the mother and her children were brought to the CPA, the children were initially taken for medical check-ups as the baby, especially, seemed listless and under-nourished; this parent needed help. The concerns of the agency were explained to the mother, as a background check must be carried out to ascertain whether she and her children are adequately provided for and reasonably housed.
The ultimate question that CPA officers face in all situations of child abuse is, what needs to be done in the best interest of the child? If this mother is indeed neglecting her children and they are malnourished; and if their home is squalid and unacceptable, her children could be removed temporarily and placed in foster care.
Wherever possible, as long as no risk is posed to the children, CPA officers will work with parents to keep children with their families. But where there is proven child neglect or abuse, children are vulnerable and must be protected.
Children do not benefit, socially, emotionally or physically, when they are parted from their loved ones. Even when they are aware that they may have been mistreated by them, children always prefer to be with their families, rather than with strangers in an unfamiliar setting.
Strengthening families to cope by giving them hope is what CPA officers spend a great deal of their time working towards along with cooperative parents and families. Let us not undermine the importance of their duty to the children of our country; let us assist them when and where we are able by reporting child abuse.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at email@example.com
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION