Child Protection Month begins with call to report child abuse
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Lanisha Rolle has formally launched Child Protection Month. She sounded an appeal to the public to report cases of child abuse.
“Our social workers however, cannot advocate alone. They need the help of our communities. Isolation in silos will not advance children’s protection but a unified [effort] will,” she said.
“The job of protection of our children is all of ours to perform. We need everyone who lives and works around children in any capacity as parents, grandparents, neighbors, healthcare professionals, lunch vendors, passersby on the streets to all join in the fight to protect our children.”
Rolle reminded the nation that because there are so many instances and variables of child abuse, all citizens have a duty to advocate for the life and love of every child.
“If you see it, say it; if you hear it, tell it,” she said.
The ministry launched the activities during a press conference at the Baillou Hill Road headquarters on Thursday. Parliamentary Secretary Vaughn Miller; Sherilee Smith, permanent secretary; Lillian Quant-Forbes, acting director; other government officials; and Child Protection National Council representatives, including Bishop Arnold Josey and Dr. Novia Carter, were among those present.
Child Protection Month is being observed on the theme “We Care. We Share: Prevent Child Abuse”, which is based on challenges affecting the social development of children including child abuse, child neglect, child abandonment, child molestation and incest.
Rolle shared statistics of reported suspected cases of child abuse investigated by the Child Protection Unit: 2015 – 520; 2016 – 560; 2017 – 460 (still under investigation).
“These numbers represent reported cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect, incest and abandonment. They also represent the children who have had the Department of Social Services intervene on their behalf because of a caring teacher, an enquiring neighbor, a concerned uncle, trained church members or an alert shopkeeper who took the time, picked up the phone and called social services or called the police to report the abuse,” said Rolle.
She said the ministry’s Children and Family Services, School Welfare Division and Child Care Facilities, together with the appointed Child Protection Council led by Josey, and neighborhood urban renewal centers and social services community centers, work together year-round to address matters that affect children, provide child care services and coordinate initiatives designed to foster their growth and healthy development.
“The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development stands ready, willing and able to work with all partners and stakeholders to establish and reinforce programs and provide services to parents and guardians to ensure the healthy social development of our children so that no child is left behind,” she stated.
To ensure protection of children, the Ministry of Social Services manages the government’s adoption and foster care programs. The ministry also provides 24-hour care for children placed in the Bilney Lane Children’s Home, Children’s Emergency Hostel, Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home, Nazareth Center, Ranfurly Homes, Grand Bahama Children’s Home, Simpson Penn School for Boys and Willimae Pratt Centre for Girls.
During the press conference, the minister received a blue pinwheel courtesy of the Child Protection Council, which symbolizes the fight against child abuse.
Among the month’s activities, which are extended to the Family Islands, is an exhibition, a poetry competition for school students, a town meeting and two church services.
Josey announced that all churches will be invited to participate in a special service to be held at the close of the month during which prayers will be offered for families and children.