Where is the village?
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PEOPLE often say it takes a village to raise a child, which means the more people (family and community members) involved in a child’s life and development, the better upbringing, experiences and existence that child will have. We all want positive and wholesome experiences for our children and community; therefore, we must stay vigilant for signs of child abuse.

Even if we only suspect child abuse, we must report the same to the relevant authorities:– the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), the Police, the Social Workers at the Ministry of Human Services, Doctors, and Teachers. These agencies work together to protect children and prevent child abuse.

As a neighbour or part of a community, no one expects you to go door to door to check up on the children in each family to ensure they are not physically abused, malnourished, sexually abused or neglected. Still, you should be watchful, attentive and concerned about the youngsters in your community.

If something doesn’t look right, there could be something wrong, do not dismiss the thought as trivial or tell yourself it is none of your business. Make a report – you could save a child from dire circumstances. Some people instinctively know when something is wrong – their conscience does not let them rest until they have reached the bottom of a situation and their fears have been proved unfounded or confirmed.

Many reports that reach the desk of Child Protection Officers come from vigilant adults who suspect something and know they must make a report. It is their privilege to remain anonymous should they choose, and their names or where they live is not included in the documentation nor shared with (alleged) suspects.

A woman pensioner observed some strange activity from her window. The dilapidated house obliquely across from her had several small children under ten who were barely dressed and always in the yard. They played a lot of the time, but sometimes, they seemed to be waiting patiently to go into their home. The pensioner always noticed when a man came out and left that the children were allowed inside. She also observed the mother going out occasionally and locking the children in the home alone. Sometimes she heard a crying child from the house at night but was always relieved to see and count the children in the yard the next day – at least they were all right. The pensioner was concerned about the children but unaware of her civic duty to inform authorities of their neglect.

The children were unaware of the neglect; their way of life was all they knew. It did not occur to their young minds that they were malnourished, not receiving an education and living in adverse conditions. Only a thoughtful adult could make that observation and seek to rectify the circumstances on their behalf.

Seeing the children in the yard was the pensioner’s way of maintaining their safety, but it was not enough. Children need to be protected. One day she casually spoke to a friend about the crying child keeping her awake at night. After asking her more questions, her friend knew the children were vulnerable and needed assistance. He contacted the CPA, and the Agency investigated the report.

If you were a child, wouldn’t you like to know adults look out for you wherever you go, with your best interest at heart? Adults whose prime concern is to ensure your safety, to protect you and give you the chance to develop healthily? There are several dangers and lecherous people in society who tempt children, harm them or use them for their own devices. Adults must safeguard children at all costs -every child deserves protection. How else will they strive and grow into well-rounded, decent individuals?

Some time ago, before mobile phones existed, adults used to take an interest in children to the extent where they would correct children on the road if they deemed it necessary – whether they knew the child and their family or not. Adults would report to parents if they saw a child misbehaving in public or if a child was sent to one place, strayed, and ended up somewhere else. By the time the child reached home, the parents would be waiting.

Nine times out of ten, some well-meaning informant would have spotted the errant child and already told his/her folks where the child was and what he/she was doing. That is how it worked when people were involved in raising ‘village children’ correctly and morally. The objective was not to get the child into trouble but to curb any deviant behaviour before it had a chance to become ingrained.

The CPA, Police, Social Workers, Teachers and Doctors work in various ways to protect children and keep them safe. However, they only learn about child abuse if there are tell-tale signs, the child discloses, or an attentive, concerned adult makes a report; until this happens, there is little they can do.

Children seldom disclose. Even when their loved ones degrade them and make them do unseemly, atrocious acts, or they are beaten, threatened and treated in a derogatory manner, they still stay loyal; they need their families. Therefore, it falls into the community’s hands to safeguard children and work towards making their neighbourhood a child-awareness, child–friendly, and child-protected zone.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com



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