NGOs call for child safety standards

| 16/11/2016 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Local activists that are part of a coalition of non-profits and government agencies working to address child abuse in the Cayman Islands have warned that the ongoing failure of the authorities to establish national standards for youth organisations means that there is no oversight for people working with children and no requirements to meet best practices. Four years after it was established, the Protection Starts Here project has continued to press for this problem to be addressed and raise awareness about this safety gap but so far government has failed to implement a safety regime around youth service provision.

Carolina Ferreira, Deputy Director for the Cayman Islands Red Cross, said too many people are still unaware of the dangers kids are exposed to without any national standards applying to those who are working with children.

“Part of what our group has been doing is to not only to make [the public] aware of what exactly this means but also to help us do something about it,” she said. Ferreira explained that there is no process for how to screen and hire staff and volunteers or to have policies in place that foster safe environments, and no mandatory training on how to prevent or document abuse, even though there is now a legal requirement for reporting.

Summer camps present one of the most obvious examples of risk for young people but the activists said children and youth are vulnerable throughout the year.

“All organisations that provide services to young people — as clients, patients, beneficiaries, customers …should at the very least be held to a minimum standards for child safety and protection,” said Sophia Chandler Alleyne, Child Psychologist for the Health Services Authority, noting that most people think they are. “Many people are likely unaware of this gap because they believe that in this day and age this is already the rule rather than the exception.”

The group Protection Starts Here created to address the issues relating to child safety includes the Red Cross, the Health Services Authority, the Crisis Centre, the Family Resources Centre, the Employee Assistance Programme, the Special Needs Foundation, the Wisdom Campaign.

As a step forward in plugging the safety gap, the Seal of Protection was developed by the Protection Starts Here working group, which is spearheaded by the Red Cross working with HSA, FRC, EAP, CICC, SNFCI and the Ministry. This is a grassroots effort to recognise youth service providers that have taken the steps to meet basic minimum standards which parents and guardians can identify.

Nancy Davey, Children and Youth Programme Manager for the CI Crisis Centre, said people have the power to make service providers conform.

“Consumers are incredibly powerful as a group, and parents and guardians make choices with their wallets every day. What we are trying to do is to appeal to parents [to] choose those providers who are taking this step to make their kids safer,” she said.

In order to receive the seal, organisations must do criminal history and background checks on all personnel, including volunteers, have documented screening, written safety policies such as a code of conduct and mandatory reporting, mandatory Darkness to Light training and 50% of all personnel trained in First Aid.

Ferreira added that there is a tremendous amount of work going on with volunteers giving up their time to train and raise awareness, which, despite the challenges, will continue until Cayman adopts national standards based on best practices to create safer environments for kids.

CNS: This article has been corrected. An earlier version said that the Ministry of Education developed the Seal of Protection.

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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (10)

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  1. What a laugh says:

    If it falls under Minister Driftwood forget about it! You might get better action if you put on a skirt and appear to be intelligent, then you will see some action.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Abuse is, in and of, itself is shocking and disheartening and should be harshly punished.

    Even more worrying is the absolute lack of competence, caring, understanding and overall effectiveness of those responsible for investigating these atrocities. How insulting and absurd it is when a volunteer group (thank you by the way) is more effective at investigating and preventing these types of situations than the “professionals” whose sole responsibility is to detect, investigate, and ultimately make efforts to prevent this from happening in the first place.

    Here in this tiny island, it is downright ridiculous that any of these reports/allegations can go unresolved yet so many do.

    Historically, the RCIPS as a whole is absolutely ineffective – and especially when proper investigative techniques need be employed. Whether it is by design or just a symptom of poor policies, governance, and/or recruitment/training doesn’t matter. It is absolutely inadequate and has been for such a long time. Add to that the ingredient of a completely subjective and not free and independent (remember, true independence must be actual AND in appearance) Office of the DPP, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a crime-ridden nation. Moreover, extrapolate that ineffectiveness across other statutory bodies (Immigration, Labor, etc) and you get what Cayman is today. The rich man’s luxury toilet.

    How many times do the Caymanian people have to express their concerns, their unhappiness with, and their raw unfiltered opinions as to the worthlessness of the RCIPS until something is done? Aren’t the police meant to serve the people and not the other way around?

    So much focus is on the financial industry (and rightfully so!) however, we are missing the forest for the trees. Kids are being raped by their parents. Teachers are allowing their own children to be molested by their husbands. Allegations are falling on deaf, corrupt ears. Police officers are lying to protect their buddies. Visiting Judges are having to acquit persons due to incompetence, negligent and inadequate police work.

    It’s all a big joke except it’s not funny.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Only in extreme cases where victims speak up are “trusted” abusers brought to justice, especially when the abusers are teachers ,sport coaches, pastors etc. And their verbal or mental and mean abusive attitudes can be worse than physical abuse of kids.
    Even when these sick persons deserve Blame well, if they are mistakenly seen as “good citizens” they are let off easy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Don’t allow uneducated and incompetent people to have children.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Protection of our children are clearly not a priority for the powers that be.
    We only have to look to the slap on the wrist punishments to the few who are convicted of the many crimes against children.

  6. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    How about enacting and enforcing laws about children wearing seat belts and being in proper car seats? Every day I see children standing the the back seat of moving vehicles or sitting on the laps of people. The parents/guardians of these children should be arrested for putting them in harms way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep, I saw one female driver this morning turning around to photograph her child whilst driving, and not surprisingly, driving very erratically as a result…really? You could have done that when you got to Camana bay which is where you went (I saw) and that was only 2 minutes after your driving folly…had there been an accident caused by you as a result, that to me would have counted not just as child abuse ( criminal neglect) but also as criminal driving.

    • Anonymous says:

      Same goes for children on school buses not even seated much less belted.
      Police enforcement is astonishingly wanting!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I applaud this group for this initiative. Isnt there a Child Protection Law in effect to which all people/ organizations caring for/working with children have to conform? The problem (again) may be in the enforcement of the law. I could be wrong but I really thought that this law was in effect.

    • Anonymous says:

      Law speaks to mandatory reporting, investigation and prosecution. There are no standards in the law when it comes to hiring or training or qualifications.

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