Child abuse remains a serious worry
Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Steve Blackett has reported that there were 1,045 cases of alleged child abuse that were referred to the Child Care Board between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.
And while he considered that figure to be high, Blackett said it was just the tip of the iceberg and did not truly reflect the extent of the problem on the island.
Muriel Mafico, the deputy representative at UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean, also said while there has been significant progress in creating a protective environment for children in Barbados many still experienced “challenges”.
The two were speaking at the opening of a one-day child protection symposium for church and faith-based leaders at the Savannah Beach Hotel today. The symposium comes on the heels of Universal Children’s Day, which was celebrated on November 20.
“Developing strategies that will decrease the incidence of abuse should be high on our list of priorities. Child protection is a serious matter and nations all over the world have developed initiatives that will reduce the occurrence of this scourge,” Blackett told the gathering.
He said between April, 2013 and March, 2014 there were 321 cases of neglect that impacted 522 children, compared to 327 cases from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 that impacted 548 children.
“It is also important to note that child neglect is the most common form of abuse that can be just as serious for the victim as sexual or even physical abuse . . .. My ministry, and by extension the Government of Barbados, believe that keeping children safe from abuse and neglect should always be the first goal in every family, community and the nation as a whole. It is also our firm belief that to ensure their protection is to involve the community,” he said.
“We need to speak up and end the silence in order to end child abuse. Child abuse is everybody’s business and therefore it is the business of the church,” he asserted, while acknowledging the need for adequate legislation and resources to assist victims of abuse.
He said the Government had embarked on a review of all legislation that impacts children while work was still ongoing on the mandatory reporting protocol.
Meanwhile, Mafico called on the religious leaders to do more since they were “in the frontline of response” in their communities.
“While significant progress have been made in creating a protective environment for children in Barbados [many] still experience challenges that robbed them of their childhood and opportunities to reach their full potential. As we celebrate the progress that has been made in the last 25 years, we all know that we still have unfinished business in ensuring that all children everywhere realize their rights,” she said, noting that violence against children was taking place in schools, homes and communities.
“The review of the draft protocol on child abuse for churches is a major milestone which will go a long way in creating a safe environment for children,” she added.
During the symposium, which was organized by the Child Care Board, the church leaders and officials examined issues affecting children, with a focus on abuse and violence and how it affects children in order to come up with solutions.