Message by Minister of Human Services and Social Security in observance of Child Protection Week

The safety of every child should not be an elusive goal. In launching this week of Child Protection today under the theme, “Together, let’s keep children safe,” we note the urgent need for collaborative efforts to achieve this.

As the reported cases of child abuse continue to escalate (1,918 cases as of June 2021), there are many cases that remain unreported, allowing predators and perpetrators unfettered access to vulnerable children. The increased and necessary usage of the internet during the pandemic opens newer avenues for abuse, as does the hiatus from school as many children may be in closer proximity to their abusers.

These scenarios mandate the need to promote more public awareness of the signs of abuse, more education for children on their rights as well as avenues of safety and protection and critically, the overwhelming need for the adults at every level to report instances of child abuse responsibly. And, yes, we need to encourage children to tell because they understand that they will not be dismissed but helped!

The 914 Hotline has led to some increase in reporting, and I exhort members of the public to use this and other responsible forms of reporting and to desist from placing pictures of children or anything that identifies a child who is being abused in the public domain as this leads to stigma, more trauma and mental health issues for these children.

Persons who may be aware of children in distress are urged to call the 24 hours 914 hotline, or the Child Protection Agency (CPA) on 227 0979. An individual wishing to report a matter is not required to provide proof of abuse. If something just doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t, so the CPA only requires the public to provide the location and identity of the child for us to intervene.

While I stress reporting as key to getting the process of intervention started, of equal importance is the optimum functioning of the supporting structures of law enforcement and justice.

To this end, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has commenced intense training for law enforcement officers through the CPA as it is imperative that reports are acted on with alacrity. Our own child protection officers are continually trained to provide necessary support to children and family. While interventions may require children to be removed to protective custody of the State, every effort is made to reintegrate and remove children from institutions as early as possible to loving and safe homes.

This week we launch our Every Child Safe Campaign with the intention of engaging communities in our efforts to create safe environments for children. Through this initiative we will emphasize that child protection is everyone’s business; everyone – teachers, relatives, friends, neighbours – each must play a role in ensuring that children are in a safe, secure environment, one that nurtures their abilities and enables them to turn into happy, productive adults.

The Ministry’s weeklong activities will culminate in the launch of an impactful three-year programme and strategic policies that center around public awareness, parenting, family relationships and community involvement as well as age appropriate education on child abuse matters for children and adolescents. The activities will involve parents and children and members of various communities, as well as multimedia messages featuring children of Guyana.

The CPA can attest to the fact that children growing up in abusive households often replicate the very behaviour when they start their own families; and the cycle is perpetuated.

We must always remember that, “Children deprived of love, encouragement and safe environments can morph into adults filled with hate, poor self-worth and intolerance.”

Let us do our bit – Together, let’s keep them safe. Every Child Safe!