As the country grapples with the tragedy of a suspected suicide by a 12-year-old St Lucy boy, the state agency responsible for the care and protection of children has launched a probe to determine if the child had been the victim of physical and emotional abuse.
However, Director of the Child Care Board (CCB) Joan Crawford told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that an initial search of the agency’s database did not show the late Coleridge & Parry student was known to them in such circumstances.
Crawford promised to follow up her initial search with a more thorough investigation to determine if they had ever had any reports of abuse of Shamar.
“I will investigate further to see if it is known to us and will offer any appropriate help that we can give,” Crawford added.
Shamar Weekes of Fryers Well, Checker Hall was reportedly found last night hanging in the yard of his home.
Crawford expressed particular concern about this case, noting that it highlights the issue of the emotional well-being and mental health of children.
“This area, in my opinion, needs to be addressed because often times our children are in pain emotionally, and the cues that they give us, whether in spoken words or by their behaviours, are not picked up. I am saying that parents, guardians and caregivers, teachers as well, must become more in tune with what is happening to the children, whether it is at home, in the school or in the community, because sometimes we miss the crucial signs that they are telling us,” the board chief emphasized.
“Sometimes they say they are feeling depressed, they are not feeling themselves. Those are things that we need to pick up on. I believe we need to listen more actively. Sometimes we just listen, but we listen and move on to something else. But I want us to listen more actively to what our children are saying,” she stressed.
Crawford also extended condolences to the family of the deceased 12-year-old.
Acting Commissioner of Police Oral Williams told this newspaper that while the Royal Barbados Police Force had to investigate the “unnatural” death of Weekes, he was not aware that either the boy or his mother, Julianne Weekes, was known to them with respect to any reports of abuse.
Director of Parent Education for Development of Barbados (PAREDOS) Marcia Graham described Shamar’s death as both tragic and heart wrenching, adding that it was an indication that even children were under a lot of stress and pressure.
“Sometimes we get so busy and don’t take the time to really sit and listen to people and to hear where their heart is . . . and when people seem hopeless, that is usually one of the outcomes,” the PAREDOS head said, pointing out that there were counselling centres for families in emotional crisis.
Graham is appealing to Barbadians to use the services which are free of cost, when they do not know where to turn in times of challenges.