OFFICIALS at the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development are “well on the way” towards establishing a children’s registry.
The registry will be responsible for receiving, recording and referring reports of child abuse to the Child Protection Unit of the Department of Social Services and to the police.
Minister of Social Services and Community Development Melanie Griffin said the establishment of the children’s registry is one of a number of measures the government has undertaken, or will undertake, to ensure the protection of children, while reducing the incidences of child abuse within the country.
“We must all remain vigilant in care and protection of our children,” Mrs Griffin said. “The numbers of reported cases of child abuse and neglect involving physical, sexual and emotional maltreatment are unacceptably high.”
Mrs Griffin said the government is “adamant” in its focus on, and commitment to, the protection of children’s rights and the eradication of child abuse in the nation.
The re-establishment of the Domestic Violence Unit in the Family Services Division of the Department of Social Services is another key component of the government’s thrust towards the eradication of child abuse within the nation.
“This unit seeks to provide early intervention for families and children faced with violence. One of the major responsibilities of the unit (as mandated by legislation) will be to encourage programmes and services for boys and girls who come from homes where there is abuse and violence,” Mrs Griffin added.
Addressing the opening session of the Caribbean Regional Conference hosted by the Bahamas Bar Association Thursday, Mrs Griffin said the Christie administration recognises the need to bring equity to all aspects of Bahamian law, particularly where the law affects children and the family structure.
The conference was attended by legal professionals and judges from throughout the region and was held under the theme: “Our Children, An Endangered Species.”
The government, through the ministry, will also establish an Office of Minor’s Advocate that has the responsibility for the protection of the legal rights of children in any judicial process.
“Consequently, whenever a child is brought before the courts, the court – with parent’s consent – can request the assistance of the Minor’s Advocate,” Mrs Griffin said.
Provisions are already in place for the facilitation of this service.