By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THERE were 142 child abuse cases reported in Grand Bahama in 2015, Assistant Director of Social Services Paula Marshall said on Tuesday while announcing this year’s plans for Child Protection Month.
The majority of the cases, she said, were of neglect.
It was also said that the Department of Social Services is seeing an emerging trend in toxic relationships among young people, as well as an increase in truancy.
Ms Marshall stressed that child abuse can have negative long-term affects on a victim, and that failure to intervene and provide protection will ultimately affect the entire society and impact the country’s future.
Under the theme, “Protecting Our Children, Protecting Our Future”, the Department of Social Services has planned a number of events in observance of Child Protection Month.
“Every year during the month of April, we concentrate on the need to protect our children; we need to ensure that we make it possible for them to grow up physically and mentally healthy as balanced stable individuals,” Ms Marshall said.
She added that the department provides help through various programmes and divisions to assist families, and provide individual and group counselling for children and parents.
She believes it is also very important for everyone in the community to help to protect children from abuse.
Fran Brice, chief welfare officer in the Child Welfare and Family Services Divisions, said activities have been planned to educate and inform the public on various aspects of child abuse.
“We have seen an emerging trend where parents are at a loss when dealing with their children concerning their involvement in toxic relationships,” said Ms Brice.
Rochelle Minnis, senior officer in the School Welfare Division, said they are also seeing an emerging trend in truancy.
“During last year we noticed an increase in the amount of students not attending school, and so hope to target this issue,” she said.
Garth Russell, welfare officer in the Family Services Division, said some children are faced with many issues in their families, including domestic violence, and absentee fathers, and proper caregiving.
“We will have 40 students converging at the C A Smith Complex in panel discussions dealing with aspects of detecting, creating and maintaining healthy relationships. We teach our children how to ride a bike, we prepare them for the work environment and the world, but question is, are we really teaching our children how to enter into the family and married life, and that is something that is missing. And so focusing on helping young people to know how to enter into healthy relationships.” he said.
The department is also focusing its efforts to sensitise the public about physical and sexual abuse of children.
The month of events will start with a church service at Christ the King at 9am on April 6. On April 15, social workers will conduct a walkabout in the Hunters and Pinder’s Point areas around 8am speaking with residents and handing out flyers on child abuse.
On April 18, a panel discussion for high school students on dating violence will be held at the C A Smith Building at 9am. On April 22, there will be parent/teachers meeting on child abuse in Bimini; and on April 29, at 10am a presentation of essay competition winners. The topic of the essay competition is on this year’s theme.