EACH month the Children’s Authority receives an average of 353 complaints of child abuse. In the first two years of its existence, the body had received 11,787 reports of alleged of child abuse, said its 2017 Annual Report laid in the House of Representatives recently.
“While the reports we received for fiscal 2017 were 4,000, we have only been able to address just over one-quarter of those reports,” the report’s executive summary said.
The executive summary said the body’s successes were tempered by challenges, namely, finding placements for teenagers, special-needs children and siblings. Financial constraints have curbed the authority’s outreach into communities. “The board continues to be concerned by the national financial and economic crisis which has impacts the authority’s ability to effectively deliver services.”
Saying the main perpetrators of physical abuse and neglect of children were their mothers (23 per cent of abusers), who were often single, the report urged more family interventions, parenting classes and access to social services.
Director Safiya Noel in her message said the authority has seen how economic hardship has impacted on many families they work with. Often the first step has been to try to help the family access services they require. “In other instances there is sometimes no other choice but to receive the children into care due to the resulting neglect and the family’s inability to provide the basic needs for their children.” Noel was greatly worried by the significant number of children presenting with mental health disorders. “The children are often unwanted by their families, who consider them a burden or beyond their control.”
A lack of diagnosis plus a lack of understanding of how to care for a child with mental illness often leads those behaviours to escalate with parents then feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, Noel added. “This has exacerbated the placement crisis,” she said, as even community residences do not have the space or staff to meet the needs of children with mental illness.
Chairman Hanif Benjamin in his message said people prefer to open their homes to provide care for a baby or toddler, but neglect others. “However the children who are most in need of care and support are teenagers and children with disabilities, mental health, medical and developmental special needs.
“The foster care recruitment campaign will focus particularly on these vulnerable groups.”