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Protect the children

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Last week we focused on the children of our nation and we also paid some attention to the OECS Draft Bill for Child Care and Adoption. We noted that the bill is intended to improve the welfare of the children of our nation and especially those children who are neglected and abused.{{more}}

Supervision

The OECS Draft Model Bill makes provision for the supervision by the Minister of Social Services. The Director of Family Services and a qualified member of staff will have the responsibilities of carrying out the provision of the Act. This arrangement is not too dissimilar to the present one..

Reporting

Notwithstanding the fact that a parent may seek assistance from the Director in situations where there is conflict in the home, neglect or abuse could be reported to the Directorate by persons from outside the family. Persons who work as professionals delivering health care, education, children services or those who work in law enforcement or in managerial position have a duty to report any neglect or abuse of children. Any other person who has knowledge or reasonable grounds to suspect that a child needs care and protection may report, provided that it is done in good faith. If a person with the relevant knowledge fails to report to the director or to a law enforcement officer, that person commits an offence and would be liable on summary conviction. Persons who report in good faith would have the immunity from prosecution to a fine or imprisonment

Protection of informant

Where the informant makes a report in good faith, that person would be protected against action for defamation, malicious prosecution or conspiracy. Furthermore the report cannot be used against that person who informs the authorities about the abuse or neglect of a child. The authorities cannot be forced to disclose the report. Where the identity of the informant would be revealed by a question put to the witness, the Court would not require an answer. The information could only be released with the consent of the informant or with the leave of the Court. The Court must be satisfied that the information is critical to the case and that it would prejudice the case if it is not included. The Court must, therefore, give reasons for disclosing the identity of the person. It must go a step forward and inform the Director of this action.

The Actions of the Director

Immediately upon the receipt of a report, the Director of Family Services gets into action. If the situation is dire, an emergency removal of the child from the home may be undertaken, but an investigation must be initiated where child, parent or any other person would be interviewed. If there are records pertinent to the case, the same could be made available to the Director, but with the permission of the courts.. An assessment would be undertaken for the Director to determine the type of action that must be taken. A copy of the report must be given to the parent and one to the child if he or she is mature enough. If it will in any way endanger the safety of the child, then it could be withheld.

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