The police and health services have secured funding for a full-time forensic suite for investigations into child abuse and interviews with vulnerable victims and witnesses.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Health Services Authority signed an agreement to work together to develop the suite in August and they have now received a grant to fund the project.
Hedge Funds Care Cayman, which gives annual grants to local organisations to tackle child abuse, awarded one of this year’s grants to the police and the Health Services Authority after receiving their joint proposal.
“It’s a major step toward enhancing services and safeguarding children in our community,” said Police Commissioner David Baines. “By working together, and sharing knowledge and skills, we can continue to make inroads in combating child abuse and neglect.”
The police and health services are the main bodies involved in child abuse investigation and treatment in Cayman.
Their agreement in August enables hospital specialists to participate in police interviews with children who are victims of abuse.
RCIPS Business Manager Peter Davis said the facility already exists and is being used when required, but “work is being undertaken to upgrade and develop its capabilities for the benefit of victim and investigations”.
“It is hoped that the facility will be fully in use and upgraded by the early part of next year,” he said.
The location of the forensic suite is not being disclosed, but it is not situated at any police station. “It has a reception area and an area for discreet video interviewing and recording that is both witness and victim friendly,” Mr. Davis said.
Lauren Nelson, chairwoman of Hedge Funds Care Cayman, said police and the health services had worked together on investigations into such cases in the past, but this is the first time there will be a dedicated interview and forensic suite.
With the advent of the new suite, police will undergo further training in child protection interviews while healthcare providers will be able to strengthen support services in the care and treatment of victims during the investigation process.
“We want to provide a reassuring setting to support the needs of victims. Our goal is to make the investigation process as comfortable as possible for this vulnerable population while collecting evidence to present to the courts,” Commissioner Baines said.
Hedge Funds Care also provided a grant to the Health Services Authority to continue to employ a part-time child psychologist to work with abused and neglected children.
The organisation also provided grants this year to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre for its Children and Youth Programme and Aftercare Programme; to Children and Youth Services Foundation’s Family Reunification Programme; to the Department of Counselling Services’ expansion of its Family Skills Programme to Cayman Brac; to the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture’s school-based study and intervention for children at risk for child abuse; and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations’ Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home.
Hedge Funds Care, an international nonprofit group supported largely by the hedge fund industry, raises funds to support programmes and agencies that work to prevent and treat child abuse. Since its inception in 1998, Hedge Funds Care has awarded grants totalling more than $29 million. Since Cayman joined the programme in 2005, Hedge Funds Care Cayman has distributed more than $1.3 million to local agencies and organisations.