Get help before buckling under the pressures of life and neglecting or physically abusing your children.
This appeal was made by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago which is receiving about 400 reports of alleged abuse monthly since it began operations May 2015. A quarter of the cases occurred in the home and involved biological mothers, followed by fathers.
“Many times parents may have suffered abuse as children and never got attention for it and end up perpetrating that same abuse against their children,” The Authority’s Director Safiya Noel said at a function at the Hyatt Regency last Tuesday to provide the public with an update on activities during three and a half years of operations and plans for the future.
A “situational analysis” of data from May 18, 2015 to October 31 this year indicated the Authority had received 16,601 reports from 69,319 calls of suspected child abuse.
“When we get involved, by that time it is too late,” Noel told media after the event. Parents with unresolved hurt can find themselves unable to cope when their children start ‘acting up’ or ‘giving trouble’. “The appeal is for parents to submit themselves to the process of therapy and intervention so they can be strengthened, so they can build capacity,” Noel said. The Authority has encountered reluctance by parents to attend counselling and the court then has to intervene.
In her address, Noel stated children 7-–15 years appear to be the most vulnerable to abuse or maltreatment. The data showed more females—56 per cent—are the reported victims of sexual abuse. Males accounted for 42 per cent. The main categories of abuse are sexual abuse, neglect and physical abuse.
Noel said teens can be difficult but parents need to educate themselves to understand the child’s development. The Authority is advocating for parents “to understand the things they (teens) are expected to do as normal for them to do at that age and tool, equip yourself to treat with it”.
Boys were at a slightly greater risk of neglect than girls with the most cases in the 4–6, 7–9 and 10–13 age groups. In Tobago, the trend for the categories of abuse were similar as well as the perpetrators being biological parents.
In the new year the Children’s Authority plans to roll out a national protocol for child abuse. “It is critical; it is long overdue,” Chairman Hanif Benjamin commented to media in response to questions.
The protocol will prevent the “re-traumatising of children”. He explained, “Too often you have duplication and triplication of services. Children have to go through the same trauma of telling the story over and over, and we want to eliminate that. When a child comes into the system…they must know exactly what has to be done and by whom in a time frame and we must hold each other accountable to getting it done.”
He highlighted that in the past, referrals and recommendations were made by the Authority but ended up “for a period” with another agency.
Benjamin said the protocol was high on the Authority’s agenda and it had a mandate for it to be prepared by next year. There will be consultations then a submission made to Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy, Office of the Prime Minister, who will present it to Cabinet.
The Children’s Authority will soon be opening assessment centres in Manahambre, San Fernando and Tobago, and another child support centre.
Prizes were also distributed to the winners of the Authority’s Art & Video Competition held in commemoration of Universal Children’s Day which was celebrated globally on November 20. – LPG