October 21, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Working with children/Draft Child Abuse reporting policy

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colin-wilsonweb2There has been an increase in the abuse against children by persons who work with them and ultimately given the responsibility of protecting them.

The increase I believe is not because more of the persons who work with children are sick but it is because more children and their parents are coming forward and reporting it.

Jimmy Saville was one of the most well known of these sick persons who never got prosecuted and his heinous behavior only saw the light of day after his death. It wasn’t because he kept it secret but the persons surrounding him, primarily at the BBC, kept it secret.

Cayman Islands is now coming under the microscope to provide the necessary legislation to see that all the persons who deal with children must be vetted.

Local activists want more and say the national standards adopted here fall well short of what is required.

Carolina Ferreira, Deputy Director for the Cayman Islands Red Cross, said “there is no process for how to screen and hire staff and volunteers or to have policies in place that foster safe environments, and no mandatory training on how to prevent or document abuse, even though there is now a legal requirement for reporting.”

Many persons, like myself, are unaware that many organisations that provide services to young people — as clients, patients, beneficiaries, customers, do not meet the very minimum standards that are required for persons working with children.

According to the local website CNS they report:
“The group Protection Starts Here created to address the issues relating to child safety includes the Red Cross, the Health Services Authority, the Crisis Centre, the Family Resources Centre, the Employee Assistance Programme, the Special Needs Foundation, the Wisdom Campaign. The Ministry of Education has also developed the “Seal of Protection” as a step forward in plugging the safety gap. It is a grassroots effort to recognise youth service providers that have taken the steps to meet basic minimum standards which parents and guardians can identify.”

It is puzzling therefore why the Cayman Islands do not have National Standard to protect our children.

The vast majority of persons coming into contact with children are volunteers and are parents of or were parents of children. There are, unfortunately, the sick persons who prey on children. Most get away with it at least once or twice. A lot get away with it for years.

In nearly all cases this has been seen or whispered about. It does puzzle me why it takes so long. The word of a child against the word of an adult is one of the barriers, especially when the adult is someone of some prominence in society.

Working with children is often rewarding. It is also a challenge. But children must be protected. That must come first.

After this Editorial was written the Cayman Islands Government issued this related story:

Ministry Launches Draft Child Abuse Reporting Policy

child-abuse-reportThe Minister for Community Affairs, Youth and Sports, Hon. Osbourne Bodden, along with senior officials from his Ministry, and the Attorney General’s Chambers met with the National Sports Association’s (NSA) members to launch the draft child abuse reporting policy recently.

Attended by 11 representatives of 18 major sports clubs in the Cayman Islands, the consultation was spearheaded by the Ministry and was the latest stage towards finalising a robust policy to meet the requirements of Section 32A of the Children Law (2012 Revision). This legislation mandates that certain people, including sports officials exercise due diligence by reporting suspicions of child abuse to the DCFS in the full.

Assistant Chief Officer for Youth and Sports, Joel Francis advised that attendee comments were sought during a review of the draft policy at the meeting. He noted that the consultation would allow for questions and clarification, before a final version of the policy was put to Cabinet for ratification.

Once the policy is finalised, the clubs are to be given three-months to implement its provisions.

Deputy Chief Officer, Perry Powell read written remarks which detailed the need to codify best practice in the best interest of the child in this area.

The Minister also addressed the Thursday, 10 November meeting, asking for support of the draft policy from the local sports community. He reminded those present that the welfare of the country’s children was a collective responsibility and that all possible safeguards should be taken to protect some of the youngest and least represented in society.

The Department of Children and Family Service’s (DCFS) Director, Felicia Robinson gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Child Abuse Reporting Policy defining both sexual and physical of children, as well as the impact of such abuse.

Mrs. Robinson also outlined the incidence of reported abuse in the Cayman Islands from 2000-mid 2015, the incidence of and potential for abuse of young people in sport and reaffirmed the duty of sports officials for their ongoing care.

She spoke of how the Child Abuse Reporting Policy sought to provide sporting authorities with:

– Education on implementing a child safeguarding intervention,

– A codified mechanism for responding to disclosures through child protection officers in each club reporting up to the NSA national child protection reporting officer and to the DCFS,

– Guidelines for mandatory reporting of incidents, a quality screening process of club employees and volunteers, and

– Reliance on the DCFS to facilitate efforts by organisations to relay information that may help eliminate unacceptable risk.

With regards to providing education on safeguarding children, Mrs. Robinson explained that the NSA will need to ensure that all its officials are provided with the DCFS information and training necessary for them to carry out their duty to report suspected abuse or neglect.

Using global estimates, she said that mandatory reporting was important since one in four girls and one in eight boys are sexually molested before they reach 18 years old. The director mentioned that statistics show that for every serious incident reported, 10 are not. She also added studies show that the average child molester may victimize almost 120 children before he or she is caught.

In talking about the clubs’ responsibilities, Mrs. Robinson advised that persons contravening section 32A of the Children Law were committing an offence and were liable to fines, imprisonment or both. Attendees were also informed of the immunity provided by section 32B of the law. She advised attendees that section 32C related to the notifier and told them of the inbuilt safeguards to protecting the identity of the notifier in all but the most exceptional instances.

The Director also outlined the appointment and clearance of child protection reporting officers, explaining the procedure being adopted by her department.

Attendees spoke about the immigration ramifications implied by the policy, when needing to screen temporary overseas staff, such as dressage coaches and international sports icons who give clinics during short stays.

Turning their full attention to the draft policy, they also spoke about the communication chain for child protection reporting officers, confidentiality and the need for data protection of all relevant documentation.

The Ministry is preparing to publish the final policy and begin implementation imminently. Sports club attendees were therefore asked to identify an NSA child protection officer and one for each member club to enable training and to identify all employees and volunteers needing to be trained to ensure effectiveness of the policy.

IMAGE (GIS)

 

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