AYANNA Webster Roy – Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Gender and Child Affairs – has cautioned the media that continued "negative" reporting on children's homes can lead the public to believe the children are "no good," when this is far from the truth.
She was speaking at the launch of the Children's Authority's national interagency protocol for child abuse prevention and management on Thursday.
The authority celebrates its eighth anniversary this year.
Webster-Roy said the public has "repeatedly questioned" the authority's ability to safeguard children from abuse, so she sought to provide reassurance.
"We are collaborating with all associate agencies and stakeholders to correct flaws and develop a system for child protection that is responsible, confidential and digitally enhanced.
"We have listened to your concerns and we have been working to make TT a better place for all children."
Referencing the saying 'It takes a village to raise a child,' she said everyone in this country is part of the "village...
"We including the media, and as such, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable."
If the country does not act now, she said, "Our society will face dire consequences.
She said there is an African proverb which says: A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.
"This succinctly explains the danger we face if we do not improve the lives of our country's children."
She said too many children feel neglected and "it's those same boys and girls who grow up to inflict pain on the wider society."
She added that most don't realise that in the life of a child, reaching the age of eight means their mindsets are still being shaped and developed.
"But we want to beat the authority at eight years old for not getting everything right. Come on! We need to do better, TT. "
She said the public must allow the authority, while it may make "the little mistakes," to learn from them and then put better policies in place.
"We look forward to the continued mutual collaboration between stakeholders, the media, the media, and the general public. And I keep stressing media because it plays a very critical role...It helps to shape and inform the minds of people. So whenever the media always highlights the negatives, it creates an impression in the minds of people that girls and boys who reside in State care are no good, (or that) they'll amount to nothing, so when they transition out of these facilities, they transition with people already having preconceived notions.
"Yes, there might be some bad things but within those (homes), we have beautiful, intelligent, talented boys and girls who are going to shape the future of TT."
Chairman of the authority's board of directors Dr Carol Logie said the protocol is in keeping with the authority's mandate to make child protection "everyone's business.
"It is indeed my distinct pleasure to see the culmination of not just months but years of dedicated work by staff of the authority and our partners.
"This is one of the most important documents to emerge from the State's sector."
She said the authority is committed to working with different agencies to support them in the best interest of the child.
The authority's acting director Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan said in recent years, more children have been presenting mental health and other behavioural challenges.
She added that the authority's case load has been "consistently high," with between 3,000 and 5,000 cases per year.
"No age group has been without a report," she said.
She believed the protocol can ensure collaboration is focused on and will help the authority "get it right."