3,600 children abused last year
As many as 3,600 children might have been abused in Barbados during the past year, the head of the island’s child protection agency has estimated.
And Chairman of the Child Care Board (CCB) Ken Knight does not anticipate an immediate reversal in the coming year, particularly since the number of known cases have already climbed by 128 in the past year, when compared to the corresponding period the previous year.
Knight told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the latest official statistics revealed 864 cases involving 1,173 children in 2014-2015. However, he said this number should be tripled in order to get a true picture of the gravity of the situation.
“Last year, 2013-2014, we had 772 [cases] which affected 1,045 children. And 2012-2013 we had 780 cases affecting 1,087 children. So you can see there has been quite a jump [in] 2014-2015, and 2015-2016 does not look like it’s getting any better,” the CCB chairman added.
He attributed a large number of the cases to poverty and “children raising children”, saying that rarely do people of “middle and upper middle-income” means engage in child abuse.
“I would say a lot of it is poverty-driven; a lot of it from the lower economic bracket. We hardly get reported cases from the middle and upper middle-income brackets. We can safely say that this represents quite a bit of Barbados. I would say that out of the numbers I have quoted you, you can actually triple that figure and you will get realistically the number of child abuse cases in Barbados,” the chairman said.
The CCB head revealed that only 25 per cent to 33 per cent of cases were reported to the board, with the majority settled outside of the agency, “be it financial or otherwise”.
In the wake of the suspicious deaths of Jahan King, 6, of Jackson, St Michael and Shamar Weekes, 12 of Fryers Well, Checker Hall, St Lucy, King said the board would accelerate ongoing reform of its operations in recognition of the need to put strategies in place to cope with the spate of abuse cases.
“We are putting our house in order. Every couple of years we review our processes and our protocols to ensure that we are up to speed in terms of what’s happening in the society and having a system that can cope with it. So every couple of years we have to revisit our system and update it, and that’s what we are currently doing. Yes, to some degree we have accelerated it because of the two deaths, but there are a number of things that we are currently looking at to better the Child Care Board for it to cope with what is happening in the society,” emphasized the head of the state agency.
Knight also said the CCB had to make some critical changes and improvements, including putting a serious case to Government for more staff to better handle the demands being placed on the agency every year. He said improvements were being made to the management systems, particularly the reporting and data collection systems.
However, he repeated a regular complaint about inadequate financial and human resources.
“We don’t have the money, but we have to find the money to make these things happen. When you jump by 100 cases from previous years, that’s not an easy task for the six to eight officers that you have to handle child abuse cases, plus what you have outstanding. That’s not an excuse for why somebody died. That’s just an illustration for the number of cases that we have to deal with in Barbados. It is not an easy matter,” he pointed out.
He reiterated that the board could fight on child abuse on its own, and again pleaded for the public’s support. “We have got to involve the entire community in terms of child protection. The police got to be involved, the church got to be involved [and] other governmental organizations have to be involved. Yes, we are the primary representative agency for child protection in Barbados, [but] this is a collective thing in terms of child protection. We have to have a national child protection strategy with all the major players,” contended Knight.
He added that he would like to see a new strategic plan for the agency in place at least by the end of the current board’s tenure in April next year.
“My vision is that by then, in place should be a strategic plan for the Child Care Board going forward. By then our little bugs would be cleaned up. Anybody taking over, this would be the master plan going forward.”