Media reports on closing roundtable, and resulting Health care workers workshop with GPHC

Kaieteur News 24 March, 2012

…As EU funded project comes to an end

“Child Protection is everybody’s business and is certainly not intended for just children who are

abused but for all children across the board,” said Colin Marks, as he revealed the findings of a Help and Shelter’s Child Protection Project. The event was a round-table session held in the auditorium of the National Library yesterday. The project, which is set to conclude this month end was launched on January 30th, 2011, with funding primarily from the European Union (EU) and support from the Concerned Citizens Against Domestic Abuse (CCADA) group. The latter is an organization based in Atlanta, United States.
Marks, as the Project Coordinator, revealed that the project represents yet another watershed initiative implemented by Help and Shelter even as he pointed out that it fell under a special initiative-component of the EU that specifically emphasizes rights. As such the project is regarded as one that was specifically crafted from a rights-based perspective, Marks noted, even as he opined that “incidentally when people hear about child rights they sometimes get super-sensitive because they start thinking about the political ramifications…”
However, he sought to assert that the rights of the child simply refer to the needs of the child. For this reason, he underscored that adults, parents and the community at large, are those who are expected to harness those rights to make sure that the children are able to benefit and grow up in a safe environment.
It was for this reason that the specific objective of the project was designed to promote the importance of children’s safety through community-based actions. The ambitious programme was centered in the Region Three areas of Zeelugt and Hague as well as Sophia and Good Hope, both in Region Four, and was intended to raise awareness within the communities with a view of giving parents and adults new skills aimed at encouraging non-violent and alternative methods of parenting.
“We have been addressing those with teachers, community based organizations, community policing groups, PTAs and shop owners because in all of these communities we have recognized, after extensive work, this acceptance of violence, in whatever form it takes, somehow contributes to the status of the safety of our children…because it is when that sacred right is violated then a child becomes vulnerable when a family, most times, becomes dysfunctional.”
According to Marks, based on the in-depth look into the target communities, which are in fact like many other communities across the country, it was found that persons through their socializations are complicit and accept some levels of violence. As such, he noted that in dealing with the child protection project efforts were made, on many occasions, to fully address the whole issue of violence.
Accordingly, the project sought to introduce standard protocols for those who offer care and services to children such as teachers, nurses and day care personnel, particularly in cases of abuse and suspected cases of abuse. It also incorporated measures to empower children and families alike to respond to the challenges in environments that make them vulnerable to abuse even as efforts were made to enlighten the target group of the avenues that are available to offer counseling support, court support and provide sensitization on other sensitive children’s issues. “Why do we need the confluence of these actions in these communities? We only need to look at our newspapers…if we use our short-term memory and look back just three months or even 15 months we would see what is happening with our children and not only in these poor communities.”
However, Marks noted that the protection of children in Guyana has come a far way, so much so, that some hospitals seek to ascertain the cause of a child’s injury once they are brought to the hospital for medical attention. This, he noted, was not obtained in years gone by. “One week ago…I heard some parents complaining that before their child gets discharged they have to see the social worker. I think that is a significant move and it also underlies the fact that in lots of cases our children are just not safe. When a child turns up for care in the health care system it needs to be checked…”
Following dynamic sessions with community members over the project-period, the outcome of the project saw the creation of a strong network of organizations, persons and groups to respond appropriately within the target community to child abuse or any situation that puts children at risk. Remedial measures included the integration of school-aged children back into the school system but were not limited to parents vowing to refrain from beating as a form of punishment. “We still have got work to do…we have done 15 months of work…you are more or less at the pressure point but don’t be afraid; there is support; Help and Shelter champions the work for and with vulnerable groups, especially those affected by violence,” Marks told the gathering at the round-table discussion even as he stressed that “our children are really a prized possession.
Yesterday’s forum also saw representatives from the various target communities amplifying their intent to continue to embrace the initiative to keep their children safe by striving to ensure that they are protected from all forms of violence.

Health Centres need child friendly spaces – Help and Shelter
Kaieteur News 25 March, 2012
…As continued efforts are made to reduce violence against children

The need for child friendly spaces at the local health centres has been underscored as one of the

Colin Marks

measures needful to help protect children against violence. This notion was recently highlighted by Help and Shelter’s Colin Marks when he disclosed findings of a Child Protection Project on Friday.
The project entailed a survey, which among other questions, asked “whether health centres are child friendly places?” It was focused in Zeelugt and Hague in Region Three and Sophia and Good Hope in Region Four.
The survey, according to Marks, saw 43 per cent of the respondents agreeing that health centres are child-friendly places, 22 per cent being certain that this was not the case, while 14 per cent said they didn’t know. Another 14 per cent insisted that they were not fully child friendly.
Six per cent said that this was sometimes the case while the remaining one per cent said maybe.
But according to Marks the mere fact that some of these facilities are not outfitted with an area conducive to children’s relaxation or play could be reason enough to deduce that they are not child friendly.
He said that in order to indicate that they are in control of their children, which could number at times two and three; some parents are forced to inflict physical blows on their children while visiting the health centers.
“We went into these health centres and none of them are really, really child friendly…These children have to and must run around and use the space around but this is the time that they get some licks and lashes…if a child (does not) have a little soft toy or something to play with….something that is child-friendly to focus then they will run around.
“And some people don’t like people to think they have unruly children and so the licks and lashes will follow.”
Such action, according to Marks, is tantamount to unwarranted violence. As such the project focused on reducing violence and better protecting children even as it promoted an awareness process which saw the facilitation of 51 parenting programmes within the target communities.
A total of 652 parents, 102 teachers and 277 youths were reached as a result. In addition, Marks said that child abuse posters and parenting booklets were printed and disseminated within the communities. Further, he noted that a Community-based parenting model is currently a work in progress to enhance awareness of the child rights protection movement.
The awareness strategy also saw parenting handbooks and training manuals donated to the project by Childlink Inc. being disseminated while 188 child abuse posters were disseminated to shops, internet cafes, police stations, barber shops, gas stations, community centres, churches and health centres.
Meanwhile, in a bid to introduce standard protocols for nurses, teachers and caregivers to enhance their ability to recognise child abuse and render correct responses within the child protection system, 60 health care professionals, including nurses, medex, midwives and community health workers were trained, Marks said.
Also, 21 teachers, including Sunday school teachers, were trained while 322 child abuse definitions and child protection handouts were distributed, Marks added.
Additionally, empowering children and families to respond to and report child abuse, the provision of counselling and court support for children affected was promoted with the distribution of 228 fliers disseminated at health centres.
Marks revealed too that the project also worked towards encouraging Child Protection Agency and Health professionals to recommit to collaborate. The efforts, he said, were however not limited to awareness and the introduction of protocols but according to him there were therapeutic interventions with 77 children and ‘Be Safe’ sessions were conducted with 387 children.
A total of 493 children were reached through nursery school session and other engagements within the target communities, he added.
Marks added that 72 children were referred to the Child Care and Protection Agency for interventions, nine were placed in foster care, five were reintegrated in the school system while four families were referred for social assistance and seven parents referred for counselling support.
As part of the project, too, there were moves to create an effective network of persons, groups and organisations within the target communities to work and respond to the safety and wellbeing of children.
As a result, three of the target communities have formed action groups to promote child safety and work at cascading the parenting sessions within the community. Moreover more persons are reporting child abuse using the Child Protection Agency’s hotline number, Marks said, even as he revealed that there has been increased understanding of the child protection system.
Further, he noted that community action groups have since taken on the responsibility to disseminate literary and non literary materials that promote the safety and wellbeing of children. In addition Parent/Teacher Association members and policing groups are now members of community coalition.
Marks said that Demerara Tobacco Company has also embraced the work of the project and has since donated signs to be distributed to shops within the communities that state they will not sell cigarettes to children.

Health workers trained to detect child abuse
Guyana Times 7 May, 2012
Staff from four health centres attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) recently underwent a three-day training workshop on detection of child abuse.
The workshop held at the GPHC Resource Centre targeted public safety officers, social workers, pharmacists, medexes, nursing personnel and maids of the Campbellville, Kitty, Industry, and Enmore health centres.
The aim of the training was to ensure the staffers of the health centres are fully-trained and equipped with the knowledge and skills to observe and deal appropriately with suspected cases of child abuse, thus making these centres child-friendly spaces for abused children.
This initiative stemmed from a survey by Help and Shelter, which revealed that there is an increase of visible incidents where parents “lash out” at their children while seeking medical attention at the centres. Hence, the recommendation from the organisation for child-friendly spaces to be created in hope that it reduces the number of abuse cases.
The sessions were facilitated by child protection specialist Vidya Kissoon. There were also several representatives from the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA), who attended the sessions to answer questions from the participants, and also to enlighten them on child abuses, how to detect it, and where and how to make the reports.
Kissoon in an interview with Guyana Times said the GPHC organised the workshop because it realised that there is an increase in visible child abuse, and as such, it needed to be more proactive in dealing with these cases, and not only in the main hospitals but also at the health centres.
He added: “The law now states that there is mandatory reporting in the Protection of Children Act, which says that all health care professionals must report abuse in hospitals and you have to ensure the staff is equipped, and that why they trained all the staff of the health centres”.
Elizabeth O’Brian, one of the participants who benefitted from the programme told this newspaper that the programme was very edifying, not only to medical personnel but to all Guyanese.
“The programme is about child protection, it really tells you how to detect or what to observed when a child is being abused, there are certain things that present it, maybe physical, emotional, verbal and sexual”.
O’Brian noted that if persons have knowledge about cases of child abuse, then they should report it to the relevant authorities, otherwise they can be fined and/or taken to court. She also said that the programme had enlightened persons about where to make the reports and they were also given a hotline number to call.
GPHC Public Relations Officer Alero Procter said that the programme was initiated so that the heath centre staff can be able to recognise any form or sign of child abuse.
She added: “We are implementing an initiative to create child-friendly spaces at these four health centres which falls under the GPHC’s management.” She also disclosed that the hospital intends to train as many personnel as it possibly can to improvement management of local health care.
The GPHC is hoping to host a follow-up session in the next six months to get an update on the progress the staff would have made as a result of the training. The hospital is also hoping to get the police involved in that follow-up session.