The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) last Wednesday held a media briefing to underscore for parents, guardians and caregivers to treat children as “number one”.
“You must begin to develop a safety home. It means you must speak safety; you need to live safety and you need to practise safety. This is the only way our children learn, through mirroring, through explanation” said Hanif Benjamin, Chairman of the Board of Management at the Authority’s head office Wrightson Road.
It was not sufficient for parents to shout “Don’t do that” or “Leave that alone” but explain to the child what should and should not be done and why. Parents should not allow children to venture into unsafe situations thinking “who can’t hear, will feel”.
“Adults may think children understand safety, that is not always the case…we must understand that children are curious by nature…that they want to play, they want to venture beyond what is,” he said. He warned there is a “legal remit” of parents for proper care and supervision. It is illegal to leave a child to supervise other children.
The briefing was prompted by a recent spate of incidents and “the need for greater vigilance by adults” particularly during the July-August school break.
Also addressing the conference were Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, CATT Deputy Director, Care Services and Superintendent Joseph Chandool, Head of the Child Protection Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Benjamin said children are the most vulnerable in society and require “our deepest amount of trust and protection”. He called for parents and guardians to design safety plans and drills with their children. In an impassioned tone he said, “too many of our children are on the receiving end of death and destruction and it is not okay”.
Benjamin said when children are seen as a priority then the way adults think and operate will change. He highlighted the need for proper arrangements for children who are deaf or visually challenged.
“Your level of supervision, your level of involvement with a child with a disability will be different to other children so you need to plan for your children who are dealing with a disability…How do you deal with an emergency situation with a child who is immobile….What about a child who cannot hear a fire alarm?”
Benjamin stressed that supervision was not just being physically present but mentally also; persons should not be distracted by a cell phone or computer. He explained during the Q and A, “When we speak about supervision we are speaking about someone who can manage the day to day up and down with the child…”
The CATT data has shown an increase in reports of children in need of care and protection during the July-August holidays. The cases involve alleged sexual and physical abuse and neglect.
Gregoire-Roopchan said research has not been done on the variables to account for the increase but it was observed children were not supervised during the period.—LPG
In photo: Hanif Benjamin, Chairman, CATT (centre) addresses the media. He is flanked by Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, CATT Deputy Director, Care Services and Superintendent Joseph Chandool, Head of the Child Protection Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Photo: Lara Pickford-Gordon