It will be mandatory to report possible cases of child abuse under proposed amendments to the Children’s Law.
The draft consultation bill was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Friday.
Minister for Health and Human Services, Anthony Eden, said the government was launching a public consultation of the amendments.
‘This legislation is about protecting our most valuable asset – our children,’ said Mr. Eden when tabling the bill amendments at the Legislative Assembly on Friday.
He said the mandatory reporting of child abuse had implications for children, families and many professionals including those in social, health, education, ecclesiastical and law enforcement fields, as well as government policy- makers.
Mr. Eden said denial or an exaggerated sense of what should be kept private prevented the reporting of abuse.
Under the amended law, a person who has a reasonable suspicion that a child is being neglected or abuse, and who does not report it to the Department of Children Services, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $2,000 or to six months’ imprisonment.
The amendment states that the law applies to medical practitioners; pharmacists; nurses; dentists; psychologists; police officers; probation officers; social workers; ministers of religion; employees of religious or spiritual organisations; teachers, principals, counsellors or other employees of institutions for care and education of children; a person who provides child care services; and others involved in providing services to children.
The amendment also broadens the definition of abuse of a child to include sexual abuse.
The law also requires the attendance of parents when their children appear in court.
‘Too many times we see the children by themselves or with social workers attending court and it is high time the parents took responsibility for this,’ Mr. Eden said.
Members of the public have 30 days to give their input on the proposed amendments.
‘I am hoping there will be wholehearted support for this legislation… to make the Cayman Islands a safer place for ourselves and for our children,’ Mr. Eden said.
Other amendments to the bill, first implemented in 2003, gives fathers parental responsibility for the child where he, along with the mother, registers the child’s birth or acquires it in accordance with the law.
The law also addresses the parental responsibilities of step-parents.
The amended draft bill can be found on the Legislative Assembly website, www.legislativeassembly.ky, under House Business/Bills.