Improved community response needed to tackle ‘escalating’ child abuse cases
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This week, Human Services Minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud will launch the ‘Every Child Safe’ campaign, geared towards engaging communities to create safe environments for children
This week, Human Services Minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud will launch the ‘Every Child Safe’ campaign, geared towards engaging communities to create safe environments for children

— says Minister Persaud as Child Protection Week launched

AS of June 2021, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security had been investigating 1,918 reported cases of child abuse, and according to subject minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud, these cases have since continued to escalate.

In a message to mark the beginning of Child Protection Week 2021, which starts today, Minister Persaud pointed to the fact that in addition to the above-mentioned figures, there are many cases that remain unreported, thereby allowing predators and perpetrators unfettered access to vulnerable children.

“The increased and necessary usage of the internet during the pandemic opens newer avenues for abuse, as does the hiatus from school as many children may be in closer proximity to their abusers,” Minister Persaud noted.

She reasoned that these scenarios mandate the need for improved public awareness of the signs of abuse, as well as increased education for children on their rights, as well as avenues of safety and protection and critically, the overwhelming need for the adults at every level to report instances of child abuse responsibly.

“We need to encourage children to tell because they understand that they will not be dismissed but helped,” Dr. Persaud said.

She went further to outline a number of avenues that persons can utilise in reporting cases of child abuse and help safeguard the nation’s children. These include the 914 hotline which has seen an increase in reports of children being abused.

Dr. Persaud in her message also cautioned persons to desist from publicising the identities of abused children, as it can do far more harm than good.

“Pictures of children or anything that identifies a child who is being abused in the public domain leads to stigma, more trauma and mental health issues for these children,” the minister informed the public.

She reminded citizens that persons wanting to report cases of child abuse need not worry about conflict, since reports can be made on an anonymous basis.

“An individual wishing to report a matter is not required to provide proof of abuse. If something just doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t, so the CPA only requires the public to provide the location and identity of the child for us to intervene.”
The Human Services and Social Security Minister said that even though reporting is key to getting the process of intervention started, of equal importance is the optimum functioning of the supporting structures of law enforcement and justice.

To this end, the ministry has commenced intense training for law enforcement officers through the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), as it is imperative that reports are acted on with alacrity.

“Our own child protection officers are continually trained to provide necessary support to children and family,” Dr. Persaud said.

She noted too that while interventions may require children to be removed to protective custody of the state, every effort is made to reintegrate and remove children from institutions as early as possible to loving and safe homes.

In observance of Child Protection week, the Human Services and Social Security Ministry will be launching its ‘Every Child Safe’ campaign, aimed at engaging communities in efforts to further create safe environments for children.

“Through this initiative we will emphasise that child protection is everyone’s business; everyone – teachers, relatives, friends, neighbours — each must play a role in ensuring that children are in a safe, secure environment; one that nurtures their abilities and enables them to turn into happy, productive adults,” Minister Persaud emphasised.

She said too that the ministry’s week-long activities will culminate with the launch of an impactful three-year programme and strategic policies that centre on public awareness, parenting, family relationships and community involvement, as well as age-appropriate education on child abuse matters for children and adolescents. The activities will involve parents and children and members of various communities, as well as multimedia messages featuring children of Guyana.

“The CPA can attest to the fact that children growing up in abusive households often replicate the very behaviour when they start their own families; and the cycle is perpetuated,” Dr. Persaud highlighted.

She added, “The safety of every child should not be an elusive goal.” Child Protection today under the theme, “Together, let’s keep children safe.”

“We note the urgent need for collaborative efforts to achieve this…We must always remember that children deprived of love, encouragement and safe environments can morph into adults filled with hate, poor self-worth and intolerance,” Dr. Persaud recognised.

Persons who may be aware of children in distress are urged to call the 24-hour 914 hotline, or the Child Protection Agency (CPA) on 227 0979.

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