A former Child Care Board officer who is now a prominent criminal lawyer says the existence on the statute books of Barbados of the 1904 Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act and its continuing effectiveness, eliminate the need for new legislation to protect the island’s children.
Arthur Holder gave this advice to the Freundel Stuart administration this past weekend while addressing a meeting of the St Michael Central constituency branch of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) at the George Lamming Primary School, Welches, St Michael.
Holder who served as a Child Care Board officer from 1993-1996 and subsequently as a manager, said: “The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act is still on the statute books, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel and have a new piece of legislation to bring a solution to the problem of child abuse.
“As a Child Care Officer, on occasions I have gone to homes where there was abuse and I had the power then to remove the child from that home and place the child in a safe environment. I had a so-called bad reputation within the environs of the City because my area was Nelson Street, Combermere Street, Chancery Lane, Wellington Street, Spruce Street and all of those streets.
He went on: “I remember on one occasion, there was an abuse case where a young child was thrown on a nail by its mother and I visited the hospital and removed that child from the abusive home and placed her in residential care.
“There wasn’t any need for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Child Care Board and the Royal Barbados Police Force as suggested by Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, because the Act gives specific authority to child care officers where there is a level of abuse of children.”
Holder said the issue went deeper. He contended that it was only in Barbados where serious child abuse cases could have occurred without any shake-up taking place at the institution responsible for their protection.
Giving the steps that are taken when a case of child abuse has been committed, Holder said: “There is an intake officer who takes the complaint. That officer is then mandated to act accordingly. However, when social workers are overwhelmed by case work and cases are not prioritized, the system can break down.”
He told his audience that the Child Care Board has a Queen’s Counsel who advises child care officers on the legal steps to be taken in removing a child from an abusive environment. “So there is a protective shield for the abused child,” Holder said.
“So all that is needed to be done is for a revamping of the internal policies of the organization. You can hold all of the press conferences in the world and you can have the best UNICEF advocates as it relates to child abuse or the rights of the child, that will not solve the problem,” he added.
Holder suggested recent issues involving the Child Care Board were enough to warrant the resignation of its board of directors en masse.