Acknowledging that there has been an increase in reported child abuse cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, officers of the Department of Social Services Child Protection Unit, Grand Bahama remain determined to spread their message of protection and abuse prevention.
Child Protection Month, April 2021, officially began Wednesday (April 7) morning with a church service at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church under the theme, “Child Abuse Prevention Begins With Us.”
Chief Welfare Officer Jodie Burrows, Child Protection Unit and Placement Division said that quite a few activities are slated for this month.
“This month, Child Protection Month, April 2021, we have a number of activities planned. We commenced with our church service today, we also have a forum that is scheduled for April 29.
“Our School Welfare Division also has activities going on in the schools – April 26, 27 and 28 – whereby we will be discussing social media and its effects on the family,” she added.
The month of activities will close with a flyer distribution day at the end of April.
The message of child protection is vital, even more so in this day and age, and according to Burrows, despite the country, and by extension the world being in a pandemic, social workers still have a message to get out.
“Despite the fact that we are in a pandemic, we still have a message to put out there as it relates to child protection because it is important that we do. We must go out there, educate and inform the public on child abuse and ways to prevent it.
“We must look out for one another,” Burrows further stated. “Too often we pass children on the street, or we may see activities going on, and we recognize what is going on, or that something is amiss. However, we somehow feel that it is not our business and we just overlook the situation.”
That should happen, she declared.
“We must put ourselves in the children’s position and in their parents’ position, because it is not every parent or family, which has the luxury of being able to walk their children to school or drive them to school.
“And, unfortunately, we need to teach our children. You know, there was a time we had the message of ‘Stranger, Danger,’ but we have far removed ourselves from that. We failed to teach our children the right thing to do to keep themselves safe, in terms of not communicating with strangers, not catching a ride with strangers.
“I find that catching a ride … no one wants to be walking about the street, walking from home about how many ever miles to go to school; young children included. So, far too often we find the children would take rides with strangers and don’t realize the hazard they are putting themselves in,” Burrows noted.
However, she reiterated that the protection message should begin in the home. “Children have to be constantly reminded,” Burrows said.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic and lockdowns, the number of cases has increased, she admitted.
“Children, especially during the pandemic, were left alone. Unfortunately, parents were at out to work or trying to get supplies. Children were then just left at home to roam or left in the care of persons who family members were not aware are perpetrators of abuse.
“But again, the goal this month is to bring awareness to the abuse and of course, emphasize the message of protection and prevention.,” Burrows said.
Father David Cooper in his sermon not only reminded those in attendance that child protection is everyone’s responsibility, he commended the social workers for the sometimes, thankless job they perform.