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124 children killed

By Andre Bagoo Saturday, January 18 2014

THE FIRST report of the Child Protection Task Force has knocked the social care system, while crimes against children are on the rise, increasing by 11 percent over a five-year period.

“The system is characterised by fragmentation, gaps in coverage, inadequate assessments, weak case management, re-traumatisation of children and insufficient physical infrastructure for the intake of children,” states the Report for Child Protection Task Force: Towards Start Up, which was formally handed to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday. “The result is that hundreds of children remain unprotected and outcomes for children taken into care are often poor.”

The report gives more alarming statistics, based on preliminary research commissioned by the Children’s Authority.

Between the years 2007 to 2012 there were 4,760 reported crimes against minors. These included 124 murders; 206 woundings; 1,983 sexual offences; 109 kidnappings; 1,983 robberies. Also, it was reported that physical and psychological punishment was most prevalent in the two to four age group, at 81 percent. The report discloses that a move is being made by the Children’s Authority to set up a child protection database which would store information and reports and have features which would alert stake-holders to conduct relevant follow-ups, in a bid to ensure no case of child neglect of abuse slips through the cracks.

“In this regard, a Child Protection Information Management System (CP-IMS) is being developed as a central reporting and monitoring mechanism, to include all children coming to the attention of the Authority,” the report states. “The CP-IMS will integrate the information flow from the reporting, investigation, assessment and care functions of the Authority.”

The report further notes that while on January 19, 2012, the second Board of Management of the Children’s Authority was appointed – led by Stephanie Daly SC – to date the Tobago House of Assembly representative is yet to be appointed.

The report also chronicles the long, bureaucratic process of public service recruitment which has resulted in it still not being fully-staffed to date. It notes that at one stage, in 2009, there was only one staff member, who actually worked from home.

“The first Director Pro Tem was appointed in 2009 after receiving Cabinet’s approval and worked from home as the Authority had not secured office space until March 2010 when two buildings located at 35A Wrightson Road were leased,” the report discloses. “These spaces had to be customised and the Board and its lone staff member undertook the responsibility of undertaking the required works.” The lone member is not named.

The document further states that based on new time-lines for its start-up, the Authority is reviewing its budgetary allocation for Fiscal 2013/2014. A total of $21.4 million has been allocated to the Authority for 2013/2014 for recurrent expenses. The Authority requested $33.4 million. With respect to the PSIP, the Authority requested $19.2 million and received $5 million.

The task force report further shed some light on public attitudes to minors. Quoting a 2012 survey by the Authority, it notes minors face an uphill battle when it comes to reporting crimes against them.

“Less than half of the respondents (approximately 47 percent), said they were likely to believe a child who reported being sexually abused by a stranger and even fewer were likely to believe a child’s report of sexual abuse by a relative (approximately 43 percent),” states the report. “The results above, which represent a small snapshot of the findings, highlight the great need for public education with regard to child rights, abuse and protection.”

In relation to this survey, the sample was 595, across 14 administrative areas of Trinidad and the seven parishes of Tobago.

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