September 19, 2020

The Editor Speaks: Social services and children

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Last Sunday at St George’s Anglican Church, members of the Cayman Islands Social Services Children/Family Support group were in attendance, including .

They wanted to highlight the work they do and which largely goes unrecognised.

Never has there ever been such a need for our children to be protected.

There is a sobering message on the website:

Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Yet, millions of children worldwide from all socio-economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions and cultures suffer violence, exploitation and abuse every day. Millions more are at risk.

Some girls and boys are particularly vulnerable because of gender, race, ethnic origin or socio-economic status. Higher levels of vulnerability are often associated with children with disabilities, who are orphaned, indigenous, from ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups. Other risks for children are associated with living and working on the streets, living in institutions and detention, and living in communities where inequality, unemployment and poverty are highly concentrated. Natural disasters, armed conflict, and displacement may expose children to additional risks. Child refugees, internally displaced children and unaccompanied migrant children are also populations of concern. Vulnerability is also associated with age; younger children are at greater risk of certain types of violence and the risks differ as they get older.

Violence, exploitation and abuse are often practiced by someone known to the child, including parents, other family members, caretakers, teachers, employers, law enforcement authorities, state and non-state actors and other children. Only a small proportion of acts of violence, exploitation and abuse are reported and investigated, and few perpetrators are held accountable.

Violence, exploitation and abuse occur in the homes, families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities across all contexts, including as a result of conflict and natural disasters. Many children are exposed to various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation, armed violence, trafficking, child labour, gender-based violence, bullying (see UNICEF, Too often in silence, 2010), cyber-bullying, gang violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, child marriage, physically and emotionally violent child discipline, and other harmful practices.

There is significant evidence that violence, exploitation and abuse can affect the child’s physical and mental health in the short and longer term, impairing their ability to learn and socialize, and impacting their transition to adulthood with adverse consequences later in life.

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What struck me most was not the message but it has not been updated since March 2011!

are stretched to almost breaking point but it should not be left to them to solely meet the needs of children.

It is a shared responsibility between individuals, the family, the community as well as the government.

When adults caring for children do not follow through with their responsibilities, are abusive or exploit their positions of power, then it is the child protection system that becomes responsible for taking action.

And all of us should report any such neglect we see.

Some professionals such as doctors, nurses, police and school teachers are legally obliged to report suspected child abuse but we should not let that take away our own responsibilities.

With an election looming ever nearer let us see how high child protection is on our would be ’s list of priorities.

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