Officials from the Min. of Social Services and Urban Development, its Dept of Social Services, the Child Protection Committee and the National Child Protection Council (NCPC) recently paid a Courtesy Call on Governor General, the Most Hon. Cornelius A. Smith, ON, as part of the group’s collaborative activities for Child Protection Month. The contingent was led by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Mr. Michael Foulkes, and comprised Mrs. Roslyn Horton, Under Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development; Dr. Novia T. Carter-Lookie, Co-Chairperson, National Child Protection Council (NCPC); Mrs. Lorraine Duvalier, Assistant Director, Department of Social Services and Ms. Anne Edwards, Assistant Director, Department of Social Services.
Observed annually in The Bahamas in April by the Ministry, the Department of Social Services and its partners for more 30 years, the month-long observance was born out of the need to make the community aware of child abuse issues and the services offered to mitigate the negative effects of child abuse on children, communities and indeed the nation. Officials are quick to point out that while the observance is specifically geared towards the month of April, child abuse prevention/child protection efforts are ongoing and that interventions occur on a daily, weekly, monthly and year-round basis as the Ministry and its partners spare no effort in doing everything they possibly can to ensure that the nation’s children are protected from the various forms of abuse.
The Department of Social Services initially used designated periods annual theme weeks known as Family and Child Care Week when the attention of the community would be drawn to the dangers of child abuse to bring awareness to the various types of abuses.
However, in 1992, the government recognized the need to broaden child abuse emphasis to include the protective aspect of child abuse.They also recognized the need to dedicate more time to this important social issue,hence, a decision was made to change the time-frame from one week to one month, and to change the name from Family and Child Care Week to Child Protection Month. The Child Protection Month Committee was also formed, consisting of a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders with responsibility for planning all activities related to the annual observance.
The Committee is currently comprised of representatives from the Ministry and its Department of Social Services, including areas such as the Child Protection Unit, the School Welfare Unit, Children and Family Services Unit, the Disability Affairs Division and the Child Care Facilities Unit, in addition to the National Child Protection Council (NCPC), the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Unit of the Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Urban Renewal Commission and The Bahamas National Drug Council.
To further solidify its position against child abuse, the government established the National Child Protection Council (NCPC) in 1999 to bring further awareness to the community on matters related to child protection and prevention.
The Council falls under the direct portfolio of the Min. of Social Services and its mandate is to advise the Government on matters relating to child abuse as well as the programmes that will mitigate its effects. Campaigns have been, and/or, are conducted annually in New Providence and throughout the Family Islands. Some of the methods by which anti-child abuse/pro child protection messages have been relayed are through:‘Say No Then Go’ Colouring Books (anti-sexual abuse message), Stop ‘N Tink Colouring Books (Anti-bullying message);
“I Gat a Right” Campaigns (Education and Awareness campaigns that advise on the “Rights of a Child” as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a United Nation’s document to which The Bahamas is a Signatory, and through the hosting of “PopUUp” Festivals that are designed to develop emotional intelligence. To comply with the Health and Safety protocols established to reduce/stop the community spread of COVID-19, the Council will host a Virtual Pop-Up Festival on Facebook this year.
Other undertakings have included anti-child abuse billboards, Cookie Drives in partnership with Bamboo Shack, newspaper articles, Public Service Announcements, Teacher/Child Caregivers training on child abuse prevention.
Up until 2008, the Blue Ribbon was the official emblem for child abuse, signifying the dark blue bruises inflicted by abuse, and was born out of a grandmother’s pain. (The ribbon originated in the United States of America). She learned that her grandchildren were victims of abuse and observed the black and blue bruises about their bodies. She later found out that one of her grandchildren had died, his little body buried in the abuser’s home, never to be unearthed, had the police not become involved.
The grandmother determined that she would speak out against this evil by continually wearing a blue ribbon. The new symbol for Child Abuse Prevention is the royal blue and silver pinwheel, promoting happy childhoods that we all want for children. For
the past 6 years, Pinwheel Gardens have been planted in New Providence and the major Family Islands. Pinwheel Gardens have also been planted at Government House, Mount Fitzwilliam, during that time frame.