Social Services records uptick in child abuse

By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS

Tribune Staff Reporter

lmunnings@tribunemedia.net

STATISTICS from The Department of Social Services revealed an increase in child abuse over the past three years, specifically after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Social Services Minister Myles Laroda.

Under the theme “One Nation United To Protect Our Children: Moving From Challenge To The Change”, the Ministry of Social Services and various partners will partake in activities throughout New Providence and the Family Islands to address the issues of child abuse.

During a press conference on Friday to launch Child Protection Month, Mr Laroda urged persons to consider adopting or fostering children, while noting the united efforts to bring awareness to maltreatment against children.

“We are also seeking suitable foster and adoptive parents for children who are in protective care and unable to be reunited with their biological parents,” Mr Laroda said.

“As a nation, we have an obligation to address all forms of child abuse at all levels within our society, communities, churches and places of learning.

“Therefore, we will continue to reach out to faith-based organisations, civil society and you, the general public, to report matters where children are being abused.

Mr Laroda urged members of the public to consider adopting children with disabilities as the turnover is low.

“I think it's most unfortunate, and I'm not blaming any segment of society, but those kids who tend to be adopted, tend to be what we consider normal,” Mr Laroda said.

“But we have to come to the realization that there are children who are born with some form of disabilities, and they deserve the right to have a loving, caring home, just as much as others, probably even more.

“I think it's one thing to have the state, me being the Minister responsible, for these wards, these disabled children, but the state could never do the job of a loving home.

“And so I think it's incumbent on me to sensitise the country of the need to adopt these children that are born with disabilities, who could display love just as much, sometimes more, even just more appreciative to that love, kind hand, that touch, that support”

Charlamae Fernander, Acting Director of Social Services, said roughly 150 children are in protective care throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and Cat Island. She noted a challenge with adopters placing more interest in infants rather than older children.

“I think everybody has a right to make an application for what it is that they want, but I want to encourage the general public to pay attention to the children who are slightly older, and maybe almost adults,” Ms Fernander said.

“And I know that's something that would raise some eyebrows, but if we really mean to help them to grow and to turn into contributing members of society.

“That's a key time in their lives, when they are 6,7,8,9 10, or pre-adolescent, adolescent, etc. to really turn the tide in this country and make sure that they become well-adjusted members of the society.

"I want to encourage persons to reach out to them, as those children are as much in need of love and protection and support as any other child. So, I think we need maybe a little bit of a shift in perspective, and in focus, and consider these children’s needs to be placed also.”

She acknowledged the turnaround period for the adoption process is often delayed, urging persons to visit childcare facilities and potentially identify a child.

She said the requirements to adopt or become a foster parent are limited, urging persons to visit the placement unity of the Department of Social Services.