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Sunday 21 July 2019
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‘Open hearts to abused children’

Children’s Authority chairman Hanif
Children’s Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin

With 60,000 calls from the public reporting child abuse and 15,000 currently engaging the attention of the Children’s Authority, its chairman Hanif Benjamin has appealed to citizens to open their homes and hearts to these children in need of care.

Benjamin said they need more people to adopt children, especially the older ones. He said there is an urgent need as well for foster carers, either on a short-term or long-term basis as the perpetrators, most of the times, are people charged with the responsibility to care and protect them.

In an address to the Rapidfire Kids Foundation dinner at Achievors Banquet Hall, San Fernando on Saturday evening, Benjamin also spoke about the increase of child abuse cases in Tobago.

He applauded the Foundation’s president Kevin Ratiram and executive for the work they are doing with children and said more organisations like these are urgently needed to fight for the care and protection of the nation’s children.

By the end of September, Benjamin said a child support centre as well as an assessment centre will be opened in Tobago. Talks have already been held with Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, Kelvin Charles and the authority is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with Dr Agatha Carrington, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development, to facilitate these two projects.

Over the past two years, Benjamin said they have had reports of 260 cases in Tobago, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional and other forms of abuses. What worries him, however, Benjamin said, is the under reporting of cases in Tobago.

“We want to be able to go, through our public education, into the communities in Tobago on a permanent basis so we could encourage people to report issues of child abuse as well as understand what is child abuse and what solutions we might be able to bring to the communities.”

The chairman said when the authority became operational in 2015 it did not foresee the gravity and depth of the task before it.

He said in just three years it has fielded more than 60,000 calls from the public.

“We are investigating more than 15,000 reports of abuse against children where sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect consistently account for over 67 percent of all the reports received.

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