When it comes to protecting the nation’s children, the officers at the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) really have their work cut out.There are no quick fixes, or cutting corners and there certainly is no easy way out.
Child protection is an on-going process because there will always be children who need to be protected whichever region or remote district they may live in. To this end, specific officers are designated to cover different parts of the country.
Senior Probation and Social Services Officer, Ms. Aretha Campbell-Sankar, covers Essequibo and some of the hinterland districts. She shared some of the challenges and successes that she has encountered during her work.
“Child abuse is wrong and must not be allowed to fester. Regardless of where it is found, it must be rooted out and reported to the relevant authorities.
“I wouldn’t say that child abuse is different in the hinterland but there are particular social problems that become apparent as a result of the cultural and economic aspects that regulate each region.
However, it is our job to visit communities and tackle any problems they may have; we also make them aware that child abuse is preventable and that every adult should be a child protector,” Ms. Campbell –Sankar said.
Children have rights that are protected by law. Their rights state that they should be allowed to grow up in a home free from fear of abuse and in a caring environment regardless of where they live in Guyana.
That is why, it is important for Ms.Campbell-Sankar and her officers to spread and share the information about child protection even in the remotest districts.
CPA is providing Baramita and other hinterland communities within several administrative regions with child protection information to make adults aware of the law on child abuse and why children must be protected.
Among the targeted problems in this region are early sexual activity, drunkenness, teenage pregnancy, truancy, and other social ills.
The CPA has specifically drafted programmes for these regions that are sure to better lives within families and communities. The objective is to bring holistic solutions for those affected by matters brought to the attention of the Agency.
Ms. Aretha Campbell-Sankar described the work of the Agency as ‘family and community empowerment’ in hinterland regions.
Between August 21 and August 25, 2017, a team of CPA officers headed to Region One and hosted seminars within several residential communities; educating parents on the Rights of the Child and their own responsibilities as parents.
The turnout was good. Crowds of parents began showing an interest in understanding how to better protect and nurture their families. The programme is continuous and is expected to be conducted in other regions shortly.
Ms. Campbell-Sankar says, “We facilitate sessions to help parents become more aware of their roles, responsibilities, and children’s rights. Some of the parents were of the opinion that they have certain rights because ‘they made the child’.
“I would say to them, yes as parents, of course you have rights. It’s not fair for us to say, ‘You made a child and you don’t have any right over that child’, but the Protection of Children’s Act that was commissioned in 2009, states that children must be cared for in an acceptable way. So we aim to educate parents about the law in relation to adequate child care while helping them to enhance their parenting skills.
“We focused on topics that mainly affect the children and young people.”
When the issue of incest was raised, many parents asked significant questions. “This gave us the opportunity to give answers that identified the law (Protection of Children’s Act 2009) and we were able to explain to them how the law works to protect children from all forms of abuse.
“… And they really participated,” Ms. Campbell-Sankar enthused.
“Most of the times when things happen to children in these remote areas, the parents are not knowledgeable about the law or their role as child protector.” she explained. “This kind of ignorance encourages a lackadaisical attitude toward serious issues affecting the development of children and their families.”
The CPA has embarked upon a renewed campaign to work with community groups in the hinterland communities. In June 2017, one such group was formulated at Lethem with the purpose of having a kind of ‘ground force’ to face head-on ills that may be putting the lives and the well-being of children at risk.
So far, the ‘Community Action Group’ has gone through training to identify the challenges they may have and to learn how to ‘watch out’ for children.
“These are persons who are going to keep a ‘look out’on behalf of Child Protection Officers. They will be the ‘ears and eyes’ of the CPA. So in case they know or hear of any issues pertaining to child abuse, they will be able to relay it to us so that we can take the next step.
Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to deal with it the way a CPA officer can, because we are professionally trained and mandated by the Agency to take action, Ms. Campbell-Sankar explained.
“We have educated the people in Baramita and other nearby communities about child sexual abuse and the effects it can have on the victim, and we will do some follow up work in the future.”
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