(SKNIS Photo: Minister of State, responsible for Social Services, Honourable Wendy Phipps)
Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 20, 2015 (SKNIS): On this week’s edition of the radio, television programme “Working for You”, Minister of State, responsible for Social Services, Honourable Wendy Phipps touched on areas that are pertinent to child abuse and what her ministry intends to do to protect the young and vulnerable.
Minister Phipps explained that many parents, who see themselves as under achievers, push their children to do what they envisioned for their own lives, that is, to access a better standard of living. These children are subject to abuse when their parents do not see them living up to their expectations. She further explained that parents do not understand that they are “denying that child the creative direction that God gave him or her.” She stated that the best approach would be to find out what the child’s talents are and support them.
“From the time children enter the preschool system we need to begin mapping to see where their skills are and begin to have early conversations with them in terms of how they think and how they see themselves,” said Minister Phipps. “Find out which things they are good at and as they process through the education system, you find ways that you can challenge those talents to find out where their gifting is so that you can help them make better decisions when it comes to choosing subjects in school. At the same time figuring out which children are geared towards technical and vocational education, which children are more artistically inclined and which children you can say need to be the ones in the labs looking down the test tubes and in the petri dishes to come up with cures for cancer.”
The social services minister stated that her ministry has embarked on a project called MEND, (Mold Empower, Nurture, Direct), which is intended to mold, to educate parents, inspire them and to give them possible directions in terms of their parenting.
“With that programme, we have about 25 families in it right now, so you monitor these families all the time,” said Minister Phipps. “They would have the benefit of counselling, they would have the benefit of guidance and you help them through that process. Some of them are also financially challenged. So, the government has a voucher system for groceries that assist them in that regard. More than likely some of those families would be assigned a probation officer to look at those children especially those who are pubescent or preadolescent.”
The minister mentioned that there are other programmes in place that assist the ministry in staying observant and proactive. A lot of it comes from partnership with schools as the ministry expects the teachers to be attuned to the behaviour changes in children.
“If you have a child that was doing well in grade four and that child was doing well in class, then all of a sudden the child comes to school one morning and has crawled into a shell. If you speak to the child and he or she jumps out of the chair. If they are around certain persons of a particular gender, they freeze. These are signs that you look for because data shows that the perpetrator is well known to the family. Very often they threaten children,” she explained.
Minister Phipps stated that some mothers know that their children are being abused but some choose to prostitute their own children because they find themselves in the problem of economic dependency on the abuser. She stated that in many cases it is a trend that repeats itself where the abused allows their offspring to be abused and develop that same economic dependency with his or her abuser.
The minister explained that there have been cases where the schools have done their work in terms of being vigilant for the signs of child abuse. Cases come up and the Special Victims Unit (SVU) in the police force deals with it and before the trial can come up someone has paid off the mother.
Minister Phipps stated that there is much to do and has used this week’s observance of Child Abuse Prevention Week to shed light on the issue.