Trinidad Child Protection Services
Why do you think the government is so slow in enacting laws to protect the Children of Trinidad & Tobago against abusive parents?
From everything I have read I will go out on a limb here and say that it is because the govenment seems to not care what is happening on the streets around the nation. If they cared about the people and the future they would be doing more to stop all the killing, rapes and other social crimes that harming them of their future. I guess some do not understand it is the children of today who will decide our future.
This may sound very strange but I was never aware that we had a Child Protective Services in Trinidad and Tobago! In all the cases where children are sexually or physically abused, the public is made aware of this in the news, when it is too late to save the poor helpless children. You normally hear about the police conducting investigations and interviewing witnesses, leading to arrests of the perpetrators. But never any reports about the Child Protective Services coming to take away the children! If I had to make a guess, I am certain that most Trinbagonians are not aware that we have Child Protective Services. This is really terrible because it clearly indicates how ineffective it is or the government does not consider protecting the innocent, helpless children, to be a priority, in this country!
BC Pires did a great interview with Diana Mahabir-Wyatt and why there is not a Child Protection Services or Children's Authority in Trinidad and Tobago:
|Former independent senator and business and industrial relations consultant, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, has fought for children's rights for three decades - and has been waiting for the Children's Authority to become a reality for almost one.|
Do children seem to be under attack now even more than usual?
Ã‚ I think they probably are. We don't really know. Up until very recently, people didn't really report it; [since] NGOs have been making a big fuss about child abuse over the last 20 years, now even children are. The two children who were fed poison dumplings - one reported to the teacher that his father threatened to kill him. That didn't use to happen 20 years ago; but, having said that, it's not been getting any better.
Even though he reported the threat, he was still attacked?
Ã‚ One of the reasons we've been insisting on the Children's Authority is, that poor social worker [who] investigated - what is the social worker to do? There is nowhere to take those children, nobody set up to investigate. How can the police do something to a father on the basis of a child telling a teacher, "My father says he's going to kill me". Fathers say that in joke - and in temper - without ever meaning it every other day. If we had our police following those reports up every time, they wouldn't be doing anything about the drug, gang or murder situation.
Well, they're not doing anything about those things now?
Ã‚ Weighing the gravity of a child's complaint against a teacher against what's going on in Laventille - what do you do? My worry - and I'm getting so depressed and upset about this - is that we're said to have a lot of money, we're building a lot of beautiful buildings - but for the last eight years, the Budget speech has said we are going to establish the Children's Authority, the Bill was passed in 2000 - it was said it needed amendments but except for the mention of the Family Court, they're mostly legal niceties - it could have been in force by 2002 and those small things changed afterwards. We don't just need a building for the Children's Authority; we need trained staff, group homes, the foster programme working properly.
We've had eight years to do this and have done nothing. So if your children or my grandchildren are in trouble, where are they going to go? Children are getting more aware. The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights now has a youth group in Point Fortin and now Rio Claro where young people in secondary school are learning about what the rights of the child are; and they've gone to talk to other children in that part of the world and more schools are interested in doing this. Young children are learning to present child rights to their peers - but, once they know their rights, what can they do about enforcing them?
Have we ever regarded children as citizens?
[Chuckling sardonically] Funny you should say that; I've had arguments made to me by senior and very intellectual people in this country that nobody is a citizen until they're 18. But the International Declaration on the Rights of the Child - which we have ratified - says that children do have rights; I don't think we've ever accepted that in Trinidad. The arguments you get from school teachers that they should be able to beat children; various ministers of education - not this one, but others - [agree]; the Minister of National Security has been heard to say that he was beaten in school and there's nothing wrong with him, he turned out all right.
Well he certainly can still take a licking as a grown-up?
[Chuckling] It is a measure of the lack of understanding about children, about how their brains develop, the damage that can be done to them by the physical abuse meted out to them - but nobody is going to take it on because they just don't view children as being important.
What drives a man to poison his own children?
He was a drug addict and was not in the right balance of his mind. He was trying to get back at his wife who had left him and, as we know from hundreds of cases, the time when [men] become most vicious is not when she is living with him and being regularly beaten and abused but when she finally leaves; and, in that case, she left the children with him just long enough for him to do what I think was a retaliatory action against her; it often is.
How should we react as a nation and as individuals?
With horror! With horror, despair and a great deal of anger that we have not yet had the humanity or the political will to establish protective and preventative mechanisms to help our children. Yet, when children are abused and there's nowhere for them to turn to, we're surprised when they grow up and become violent. We've been asking for the last 20 years for something like a Children's Authority and warning that violence was going to be the outcome. If you look at the magistrates courts now, something like 62 per cent of the cases of violence are (against and between) male children between 14 and 21. The male against male violence in this country is tremendous.
Why aren't steps like the Children's Authority simply not taken?
Children can't vote. Those of us who are advocates against the abuse of children are largely female - and women's voices are not heard as loudly as those of male political figures. The prestige and infrastructural projects are seen to be more important than children - although, in the long run, the complete destruction of the society is going to come as a result of the abuse of children cumulative over a period of years...
Of course a child must suffer and die before the Government decides to do something about it. Pathetic. I hope they keep the promise.
If Government keeps to its word and debates legislation pertaining to the protection of children, then this country would see, for the first time, the establishment of a board that will be mandated to prevent child abuse.
Last week at the post-Cabinet news conference at Whitehall, Port of Spain, Leader of Government Business Colm Imbert said the Children's Authority (Amendment) Bill 2008 would definitely be the next item on the Government's agenda for debate.
Eight years ago, the legislation was introduced to the Parliament by the then UNC government, but when the PNM came into power it was argued that the legislation needed to be revamped because of many errors. To date, it is yet to be passed and proclaimed, and whenever a child dies of abuse, such as little Hope Arismandez, calls for legislation are made from various parties.
According to the provisions of this bill, a board will be established, comprising of up to 11 members, appointed by the President. It will have qualifications and skills in child psychology or child psychiatry, social work, paediatrics, education, accounting and family law.
The bill states that this authority will be mandated to take all reasonable steps to prevent children from suffering ill treatment or neglect.
This bill is expected to be debated in the House next week as at this Friday's Parliament sitting, the Opposition's private motion on the rising food prices will be debated.
The bill states a child is in need of care and protection where the child:
- has neither parent nor guardian who is fit to exercise care and guardianship;
- is lost or has been and remains abandoned by his parent or guardian;
- whose parent or guardian is prevented, by reason of mental or bodily disease, infirmary or other incapacity or any other circumstances, from providing for his upbringing and there is no available person capable and willing to undertake care of such a child;
- is exposed to moral danger;
- is beyond the control of his parent or guardian;
- is ill treated or neglected in a manner likely to cause him suffering or injury to health;
- is destitute or is wandering without any settled place of abode without any visible means of subsistence;
- is begging or receiving alms;
- is found loitering for the purpose of begging or receiving alms;
- frequents the company of any criminal;
- frequents the company of any common or reputed prostitute not being the mother of the child.
Powers of the Authority
- Provide care, protection and rehabilitation of children;
- Investigate and make recommendations with respect to the adoption of children.
- Investigate any complaints made by any person with respect to any child who is in the care of a community residence, foster home or nursery failed to comply with the requisite standards prescribed under the Children's Community residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act, and any incident of mistreatment of children in such places.
- Investigate complaints or reports of mistreatment of children.
- Upon investigation, remove a child from his home where it is shown that a child is in imminent danger....
I am wondering how many children need to die or be subjected to severe bodily injuries before something is done to prevent this from happening. Then once a law is passed and people are assigned to assist children are they going to be able to?
Comments: Does anyone knows how can I contact the child protection services of Trinidad and Tobago?