THE Headquarters of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) is on the corner of Broad and Charles Streets, Charlestown, Georgetown, Guyana. Before COVID-19, the offices were bustling every day with a constant flow of people seeking help and advice.
Child Protection Officers kept appointments and followed up on admissions, investigations and reunifications etc., and Officers from different regions of Guyana also attended the Agency for meetings and conferences, in addition to associates and colleagues from organisations and relevant establishments.
The Agency is an essential service, therefore, precautionary measures have been put in place, in keeping with the COVID-19 regulations, to allow Officers to continue to protect children from neglect, abandonment and abuse. Protecting children is mandatory; it is a legal requirement. Methods used to safeguard children are guided by The Child Protection Laws (2009). But long before these laws were formulated, several nations came together to sign a Convention on Child Rights.
What is a convention? A convention is an agreement, among countries, which covers particular matters; the livelihood of children is a ‘particular matter’ that concerns the World. In November 1989, 196 nations, including Guyana, assembled to sign an agreement on behalf of the world’s children. The agreement is known as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Every country which signed the document pledged to help children in need, guided by the Articles set out in the document. There are 54 statements (Articles) in the Convention, but the summarised objectives have five key areas: (1) To give children a platform for their opinions, and to have their voices heard; (2) to provide them with an education, so they reach their potential; (3) for children to be raised by, and enjoy a loving relationship with parents, whenever possible; (4) to protect children from violence, neglect and abuse; and, (5) for children to have the means for life, survival and development.
The Childcare and Protection Agency, under the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, is mandated to carry out this work on behalf of the government. Each nation that signed the Convention is bound by international laws to implement the rights of children; they are held accountable to the ‘Committee on the Rights of the Child’.
The foregoing background highlights the importance of preventing child abuse, and the various elements of child protection that officers encounter. For example, Article 34 of the Convention says, “States should protect children from sexual abuse.” To this end, the CPA has a 24-hour hotline where members of the public can report child abuse of any nature, including sexual abuse.
Every allegation of child abuse is investigated. Being sexually or physically abused, neglected, or abandoned as a child can leave a long-lasting psychological scar that stays with the person for life.
When they are at risk, abused children are removed from their homes and placed in safe environments. Before this act of protection takes place, meetings, evaluations, and other administrative works are carried out for each child; their cases are reviewed regularly, and eventually, reunification is either considered, denied or approved, depending on the circumstances. All decisions are made in the best interest of the child.
Article 9 of the Convention states that children should not be separated from their parents, unless it is for their own good. Children need their families; it is within a family setting that children find guidance, love, nurturing and encouragement; it is where they hone the attributes of good communication, trust, honesty and respect. When children are not exposed to positive qualities during childhood, it affects the way they grow, their outlook on life, and the adults they become.
When parents fail to provide the basic needs of children, they are violating their rights, and, in severe cases, putting them at risk. Article 19 says that States should ensure children are adequately cared for and protected from violence, abuse or neglect by their parents, or anyone who cares for them.
Unfortunately, many children grow up in homes where domestic violence is prevalent, and seen as ‘normal’; they develop with the concept that it is okay to hit or beat up on a person, if you don’t like what they do or say. Children have a right to live and develop in a loving, caring environment; one that both parents have created in the child’s best interest.
Some children do not receive the consideration they deserve to enable them to reach their fullest potential in life; they learn to survive, by any means possible. Because there is no structure or plan put in place for them by parents, they could fail to become valuable members of society.
Article 42 of the Convention states that the contents of the convention should be made known to adults and children. It would be a good thing if adults learnt, when embarking on copulation, that children have rights; and if, as parents, they cannot fulfil even the fundamental rights necessary for a child’s well-being, then maybe they should desist from having them.
Children need love, affection and patience; they need to live in a clean and safe environment, where they can play and have fun. They require food, clothes and other necessities to strive and develop holistically; they must have their voices heard, and know that someone is listening. Each child has a personality, an opinion, and potential; we must uphold and teach them their rights.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on: 227 0979, or write to us at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY