GENDER, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau, who yesterday expressed grief over the past week’s spate of child killings, has been named among a 17-member Child Protection Task Force appointed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The intention to create the task force was announced Sunday by Persad-Bissessar in the wake of last week’s killing of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch of Maloney.
A list of appointees released by the Office of the Prime Minister named women and children’s activist, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, referred to as a “management expert”, as chairman of the task force.
The new body, which includes activists and members of the Government, will have its maiden meeting on Friday and is expected to submit a report containing recommendations on child protection to Persad-Bissessar within six weeks.
Yesterday, however, Mahabir-Wyatt told TV6 News she did not believe six weeks would be enough time to give answers to the public.
“We will probably have to ask for an extension,” she said.
De Coteau, in a joint statement with Senator Raziah Ahmed, who has also been appointed to the task force, extended condolences to the family of three-year-old Jabari Hernandez, who died Saturday afternoon after allegedly being beaten by a relative.
De Coteau and Ahmed “expressed profound sadness and outrage at the continued spate of senseless killings of our nation’s children” and called for an end to “the slaughter of our youth”.
“We extend heartfelt condolences to the relatives of young Jabari. Our prayer is that none perish by the grips of violence and that all citizens, especially the most vulnerable in society, are given a safe space to grow and thrive,” De Coteau and Ahmed said.
De Coteau said the responsibility of keeping an eye on the nation’s children falls to every citizen.
“A holistic approach is salient to address root causes of child protection failure such as poverty, power imbalances, gender inequality and harmful traditional attitudes, practices and behaviours,” De Coteau stated.
“We therefore believe that securing both the awareness and commitment of all involved in protection planning and implementation, to serve as catalysts of change, is essential to realising children’s rights to protection.”
He added that social workers, health professionals, police, educational staff and anyone else who works with children and their families, as well as members of the community, must appreciate the role they can play in remaining vigilant and providing “robust support for the protection of our children”.
Citizens are reminded to call CHILDLINE at 800-4321 to report all suspected or possible child abuse incidents.
The first meeting of the Child Protection Task Force is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development at the Port of Spain International Waterfront Complex.
Following are the members of the Child Protection Task Force, appointed by the Prime Minister:
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt--Management Expert--Chairman
Clifton De Coteau--Minister of Gender, Child and Youth Development
Senator Raziah Ahmed--Minister in the Ministry of Gender, Child and Youth Development
Sandra Jones--Permanent Secretary--Ministry of Gender, Child and Youth Development
Anna Maria Mora--Psychologist
Stephanie Daly SC--Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Authority
Hazel Brown--Special Envoy on Women and Girls
Brenda Gopeesingh--Special Envoy on Women and Girls
Gregory Sloane-Seale--Programme Coordinator, Citizens Security Programme
Zena Ramatali--President, National Parent Teachers’ Association
Pastor Clive Dottin of the Seventh Day Adventist Church
Kathy Bharrathsingh--Manager of Student Support Services, Ministry of Education
Angela Edwards--Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of the People and Social Development
Dr Trudy Rouse--Manager of Mental Health, Ministry of Health
Rondall Feeles--President, Single Fathers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago
Margaret Sampson-Browne--retired Assistant Commissioner of Police
Hazel Thompson-Ahye--Attorney, Mediator, Educator and Child Rights Advocate. (See Page 18)