Child neglect in Barbados continues to be a major concern for the Child Care Board. And officials there are calling on the church and communities across the island to get more involved in tackling the scourge.
Addressing a media conference today at the Ministry of Social Care, Child Care Board director Joan Crawford said with this month being observed as Child Month, the agency wanted to focus on breaking the silence on child abuse.
The theme for this year’s month of celebration is Let’s Embrace And Appreciate Our Children.
Referring to the high numbers of reported cases of suspected child abuse, which stood at 1,087 between April, 2012, and March 2013, with child neglect being more than half the cases – 548, Crawford said: “supervisory neglect is a major concern for the Board”, adding that the board was in need of mentors.
Senior child care officer Colin St Hill said the Child Care Board could not do all, adding that there was a need for the private sector to pick up some of the slack.
“This is why we will always push the idea where we have communities involvement and the church involvement. It is really impossible for Government and the Child Care Board to run with every single situation and provide a solution for every single situation. That is why we are really pushing the idea of community involvement,” said St Hill.
He said: “In terms of churches in particular, we believe that they have a critical role to play in helping in this regard. When we think about neglect and supervision, the churches are in communities and they can organize events and programmes around the church to help in the area of supervision of children, particularly after school.”
“We are suggesting that in the community the church could play a role in this regard. We maybe need to organize our service groups a little bit better. So we are hoping that groups could develop programmes within the community to help with the supervision of children,” added St Hill.
He said the Child Care Board has been working to involve the various community groups and as such has been tapping into the sporting fraternity with workshops for cricket coaches.
“These coaches are in contact with a large number of children,” he said, adding that so far about 70 coaches have been benefiting that would impact on about 8,000 children.
Adding her voice to the call for communities to play a greater role, Crawford said child protection was “a community problem” and therefore the community should help to find solutions.
Crawford also called on all Barbadians to familiarize themselves with the causes of neglect, which she said included poverty, lack of financial support among others. At the same time, Crawford called on parents to find alternatives to lashing as a method of disciplining their children.