‘Revisit family values’: Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau speaks during yesterday’s news conference at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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‘Recent hike in reports of child abuse’

By Camille Bethel

There has been a drastic increase in reports of child abuse nationwide over the last few weeks.

This was revealed yesterday by youth coordinator at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Antoinette Jack-Martin.

Speaking at the launch of the ministry’s national campaign, “Strengthening our Families”, at its office at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Jack-Martin said: “One of the initiatives of the ministry is the 800-4321 Childline where a text is sent to everybody’s phone (started in December). We have seen a drastic increase in reports of abuse of children and families. 

“I just spoke yesterday with Childline and domestic violence (a hotline) and they have indicated that from getting 80 reports, today it is now like 200, and those reports are forwarded to National Family Services where we have social workers on the ground and they deal with all the calls of abuse,” she said.

She said National Family Services works in collaboration with the police so if they (counsellors) receive reports in high-risk areas, the police would accompany the social workers to the communities.

“And if it is investigated and found to be so—a case of abuse—we remove the children to a place of safety,” she said.

She explained National Family Services deals with all the psycho-social issues the family may encounter.

This operates through a referral system from the court as well as walk-ins, so that anyone who encounters the abuse of children in families can contact them, she said.

She said the ministry would like to see improvement in family life as the programme rolls out because she believes the increase in violence against children stems from a breakdown in family life.

“Many of it as we have assessed is breakdown in the family life, nationwide,” she said.

Minister of Gender Youth and Child Deve­lopment Clifton De Coteau, who spoke of the programme’s roll-out as part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, said, “It is time to revisit our family values. It takes love, commitment, responsibility, respect, spirituality and communication in equal measures to strengthen the family fabric which, when interwoven, provides the foundation of our children, our communities and our societies.

“It is in this regard that Cabinet has agreed that the Government will commemorate this event through a national year-long programme.”

He said year-long activities are scheduled to take place to commemorate the International Year of the Family. This will include family skills training, with a focus on parent child conflict, parental conflict, budgeting and family farming.

He also said there will be a national parenting programme to teach parenting skills.

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