The child abuse two-day workshop held in Antigua last week was hailed as a resounding success in bringing together disparate groups to discuss an important, yet often ignored issue in the Caribbean’s British Overseas Territories.
Delegates from Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Antigua attended the seminar at the Jolly Beach Resort near St John’s.
Sophia Chandler is an educational psychologist with the Cayman government under the auspices of the Department of Student Services.
She was selected out of all the educationalists at the workshop to give a presentation on behalf of her profession. Ms Chandler said the workshop helped reinforce many key issues on child abuse in BOTs.
‘The main points we tried to put across was that there needed to be a definitive protocol that would be followed so that everyone who was in that system would be aware,’ she said. ‘We didn’t want anyone at any level taking on more responsibility than was really there’s to take on. So at the level of say a teacher or a groundsman that if a child comes out and says this is what’s happening that they know that there’s one particular individual within that setting to go to and they take it from there.
‘That person would have been trained in the policies, laws of the land and has all the contact information for the particular institution that takes responsibility for taking on child protection issues which is usually social services.
‘It’s also important for that person to let the principal know that the situation is being managed. Full details may not be required at that point because it may never go any further than contacting social services or the co-ordinator may decide this is not really an issue to be pursued any further. Those are some of the key issues that we articulated.’
Ms Chandler said this kind of workshop is vital so that professionals involved in child abuse issues can network and share information and experiences.
‘Because I’m an educational psychologist I’m very highly aware of how that type of circumstance will impact learning and the way the child will be inter-acting with his or her peers. So I think I’ve been pretty sensitized to it but I think what I really gained out of it is a lot of the policy issues that relate to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also helped me to understand how in some cases culture dictates a lot of stuff that it should not really be dictating. I also like the fact that this workshop brought together all the sectors that should be working together, including the media, which is sometimes seen as the enemy.’