The Child Care Board is not exclusively a child protection agency responsible for the care and protection of abused children.
This comment was made today by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steven Blackett, during a press briefing at his Warrens office.
Mr. Blackett said that the mandate of the Child Care Board is to respond to all types of matters related to children, including residential care, day care, foster care and adoption, child abuse and child care and protection.
The Social Care Minister revealed that the Child Abuse Team of the Board operated with only five officers who were tasked with intake duty; they have to attend court on various matters, as well as to manage existing and newly-assigned cases. ??He disclosed that the Child Care Board received approximately 800 referrals or reports of child abuse annually.
???Between April 2010 and March of this year, 267 children were removed from their homes and admitted into the care of the Child Care Board. That???s four children a month going into care over the last five-year period.
???Once the Child Abuse Department of the Child Care Board is alerted to a referral or report, an investigation is launched to determine accuracy of the report,??? Mr. Blackett explained.
He added that investigations of child abuse usually took several steps, including interviews of victims, alleged offenders, family members, teachers and other sources relevant to the investigation.
???A child is removed from their home if a determination is made that the child is at risk or is not safe in the current environment and is in imminent danger. This risk can be caused by any situation in the family, whether by behaviour, emotional trauma or physical capacity within the home that appears out of control, and it can be concluded that the child is in imminent danger or impending danger,??? he pointed out.
The Minister said that at this time he was not at liberty to speak about the cases which resulted in the deaths of Shamar Weekes and Jahan King, but he shared information about the siblings who were recently reunited with their father and have now relocated to the United Kingdom.
???The first referral of these children to the Board was made on November 3, 2008, on a matter regarding access to the children. The case was investigated and followed up with consultation of both parents. After May 2009, there were no new developments in this matter.
???It was not until five years later that the second referral to the Child Care Board was made as a case of neglect. This too was investigated thoroughly. The Child Care Board’s records indicate an escalation in reports of neglect and abuse involving these siblings one year later,??? he revealed.
He thanked the members of the community who expressed concern to the Child Care Board about the siblings; encouraged other Barbadians who knew that children were being mistreated to report it; and emphasised that Government was committed to protecting children in the island.
???We must develop a multi-agency strategy which would empower all workers who have dealings with vulnerable children (from midwives, teachers, medical staff, community officers, to Child Care Officers and others) to better protect children from harm.
Additionally, we must seek to engage the wider community, social and civic organisations, youth groups, neighbours and the church, in our child protection policy going forward???. I want to assure you that we will use recent lessons to ensure that child security is effectively addressed in Barbados,??? he affirmed.