Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s appointment of a child protection task force appears to be a “knee jerk” reaction to appease the nation, which is numb and in horror over the senseless killings of children, says Dr Varma Deyalsingh, secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of Trinidad and Tobago.
In an interview with the Express, Deyalsingh said it would have been better if efforts were focused on getting the Children’s Authority in operation.
However, he stressed that even with a fully functional Authority, the killing of children would continue.
“There is no way the Government could be held directly accountable for these slayings. No police officer, no social worker or psychologist could be in every potential murderer’s home. There is no way to know when or where this would happen next. The persons with the tendency to rape a child or lose their temper and hit out have already been moulded, conditioned and cultured this way,” said Deyalsingh.
Potential killers, he said, live among us.
Deyalsingh said there are warning signs to spot “disturbed” individuals.
“A history of violence, breaches with the law, drug and alcohol use, a history of being abused as a child, not being able to hold down a job, partner violence, family conflict are some of the clues we need to take note of.”
Deyalsingh said the people of this country need to be each other’s guardians and report as soon as possible persons who are suspected to be harmful to others.
“Often the individual would refuse to come to you and one cannot force someone into therapy, but home visits may make them think twice before they act and the removal of the child from the environment is an option open to the state.”
Deyalsingh noted the high levels of child sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies reported in the country, adding that the low rates of criminal charges in these matters show the lack of seriousness in dealing with the issues and sending a clear message of intolerance to these acts.
“A failure to hold persons responsible for some of the 2,500 teenage pregnancies is a clear example of system failure unless they were all immaculately conceived. A lot of money has been and continues to be spent in swelling the egos of politicians and persons in various NGOs by holding meetings in the Hyatt (hotel), which could have been given to increase the numbers of community social workers to do their jobs more efficiently.”
Child killing, he said, reflects a society in decay and focus must be placed on the upcoming generation.
“...Identifying the children who would grow into disturbed youths and later adults with impulse control and borderline personality disorder who would give in to their sick, sexual urges and tendency to lash out. We need to identify children with psychological problems and be able to try and assist these youths...again, the state being dependent on teachers, district health nurses and other vigilant citizens.”
Deyalsingh said there was a need for more mental health officers and social workers to assist children in need of help.
He added that sex and reproductive education for youth; empowerment for women; attacking the drug problem; providing a social network for the unemployed; and adopting a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence are all remedies that would help curb the problem.
“Teaching children about good versus bad touching and the need to report any untoward events to their teachers. In this day and age it is regrettable that anytime I hear of a stepfather in a house with children, red flags automatically go up...call it paranoia if you will, but the reality of sex abuse should make all health-care givers look out for the subtle signs,” said Deyalsingh.