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Protecting our nation’s children

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“Prevent the Pain, Heal the Scars of our Future Stars”

A more fitting theme could not have been chosen to recognize this year’s Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month than “Prevent the Pain, Heal the Scars of Our Future Stars”.

Desiderius Erasmus a philosopher of the 15th Century is credited for coining the adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ which most of us would have heard at some point in our lives. It is in the interest of prevention that our Ministry of Health has dedicated numerous panel discussions towards the enlightenment of our people in an attempt to eradicate any occurrence of child abuse and neglect.{{more}}

In order for a society to find a solution to any given problem, there first has to be an acknowledgement of the problem and considerations must be made of the necessary changes. We are no longer ignorant of the issues that confront many of our young and innocent children. It is for us to use this consciousness to find a no-nonsense solution to the problem. We are at the stage where we must have zero tolerance for the perpetrators and their actions.

Child abuse can be clearly defined as when an adult either deliberately causes harm to a child, or allows harm to occur. These harmful acts include but are not limited to emotional, physical and sexual forms of abuse. Neglect on the other hand can be described as a situation where an adult fails to provide for a child’s emotional needs such as administering love and attention or failing to provide for the physical needs such as food, clothing, medical care and supervision.

It is in this regard that we must be vigilant and seek to make a difference. Our responsibility is to protect our children and to help them thrive in the safest and most nurturing environment that we can possibly create. Educators, spiritual leaders, public officials, families and concerned citizens all must be committed to this effort.

In order for us as a robust Vincentian society to create a cadre of youth, who would be able to fully take on the challenges of this twenty-first century and to take this blessed nation forward, we must ensure that this equation must include children who are properly raised free from all forms of abuse and neglect, efforts to the contrary will undoubtedly have the potential to retard ones personal development and further place that child at a high risk of being an adult with psychiatric problems.

In some spheres of our society there exist persons who particularly view excessive yelling, ridiculing or criticizing as an acceptable form of discipline. But let us be aware that at times it can be taken to lengths beyond what is deemed as acceptable even though we may not be able to see physical injuries. We must at all times remember that while the Bible tells us not to sacrifice the use of the rod in order not to spoil the child, again, we must not administer the rod recklessly.

A wide range of factors, encompassing issues from the personal characteristics of the victim and the perpetrator to the cultural and physical environment of the child are aspects impacting on child abuse and neglect. However, most of the abuse and neglect against our children remains hidden for many reasons. The major one is fear. Many children are afraid to report experiences of abuse against them. In many cases parents who should protect their children, remain silent if it is a spouse or other family member, a more “powerful” member of society such as an employer, a teacher, or a community leader is the perpetrator. Fear is closely related to the stigma frequently attached to reporting abuse, particularly when the family “honour” is placed above the safety and well being of the child.

Defining a solution to child abuse

What is the solution to this social problem? Is our society equipped to assist families where children are in need of help? Have we done enough? Certainly we can all agree that more can be done. For far too long, too many of our children have suffered and have had to deal with the dark side of the family in solitary silence.

Understanding the root causes of abuse can assist in a better determination of the best methods of prevention and treatment. Parental choices and other unforeseen nightmarish circumstances can be pinpointed as the culprits that place families under extraordinary stress levels. Factors such as poverty, divorce, sickness, disability and poor parental skills are often associated with child maltreatment. Further, since most cases of child abuse and neglect occur within the home, closer attention and care has to be given to our families.

All societies should develop institutions that advocate for the protection of children from abuse and neglect. More services including parental education classes for high risk families, or home visiting programs for new parents can go a long way. On another level families that have a confirmed history of child abuse and neglect reports should be targeted, as those families have already demonstrated the need for intervention.

As a neighbour you have to become a brother’s keeper. One has to have a third and watchful eye that can see parents who are on the verge of a breakdown.

Ending the cycle begins with you. Counting yourself out of this process would mean that society has lost a person who could have assisted in the struggle. We have to be assertive in our fight or our children will be in an inconceivable mess in times to come. The definition to the solution resides only within you.

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