A fundamental problem that often augments children’s vulnerability to abuse is poverty.
This notion was recently amplified by Director of the Ministry of Social Protection’s Childcare and Protection Agency [CCPA], Ms. Ann Greene.
Greene pointed to the fact that the issue of poverty is one that is not unique to Guyana, but has been known to impact even well developed countries.
“Even in the developed countries, children fall through the cracks because of poverty,” Greene highlighted, as she emphasised that addressing this problem is one that can only be adequately addressed at the macro level.
“We do a lot of work at the ground level, but this has to be done from the bottom up,” said Greene. In so doing, she noted that “what we have got to conduct are programmes that reduce the situation of children falling through the cracks….we have got to look at the things that create vulnerability, and we have to keep constantly addressing these issues.”
While financial poverty within a family can lend to the vulnerability of children, Greene said that there are other forms that can be related to culture, and those of a psychological nature. The latter, Greene noted, is one that takes into consideration even the mental stability of parents of some children.
“Most parents want to do well for their children, but a lot of time things happen,” said Greene, as she amplified that the mental health issues of parents could create situations that make their children vulnerable.
“I am not saying that we have a lot of mad people, but people have got to have good mental health. Good mental health means that you deal with life stressers and you maintain balance. But how many parents can get nothing to eat, have this and that problem and still remain mentally stable? Sometimes how they react to situations extend right down to the children,” Green asserted.
She made reference to a case, which was addressed by the CCPA, which involved a mother who not only physically abused her young son, but resorted to putting him out too. The daunting situation, Greene recalled, was linked to issues the mother had with the father of her young son.
“She was not mad, but her mental balance went ‘wacko’. A lot of parents are not in good mental health and this makes their children vulnerable,” said Greene.
She added, “Mental health issues, domestic abuse…these are all issues that create vulnerability for our children.”
“Everybody has got issues! As long as you come from a family and you live in this social world, you will have issues. Some of us might be in a better position to handle issues, but some people cannot deal well with issues,” Greene noted.
According to the CCPA Director, while the child protection organisation has the mandate to ensure that childcare is optimal, there are other stakeholders that are involved in this process such as the schools, the police force and other community and regional entities.
“We give effect to child protection laws; we have got to see that they work, but child protection is everybody’s business,” said Greene as she stressed, “All systems have to work for a comprehensive child protection system.”
Currently, she stated, Guyana can boast of having “…fantastic laws. We might fall down with the enforcement of law, the police force have got their own challenges, but we have good laws and we have workable situations…what we need is more support.”
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