Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
The Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) says it receives a report of child abuse every 30 minutes.
OCR Registrar Greig Smith said preliminary data has shown that between January and March of this year, 1,303 cases of child neglect and 1,040 suspected cases of children in need of care and protection were reported to the agency.
He said for the period January to December 2012, more than half of the cases of child abuse fell under the category of neglect. He said the data revealed that 4,428 children were reported neglected.
Smith said the statistics are very startling and immediate steps should be taken to prevent all forms of child abuse.
"We cannot continue to live in a situation where a missing or abused child is just a regular news item," he said.
The OCR registrar's view was supported by the Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who called for greater focus to be placed on parenting in the country.
"Children are only neglected by the persons who can actually take care of them, and we have to work to minimise these numbers and put in place better family and parenting mechanisms, and then we will find the statistics going down," the minister said.
Robyn Boyd, the OCR's child ambassador for region two, made an impassioned plea for the rampant abuse of children to stop.
"Child abuse is a real issue that affects members of my generation who are of all different ages … . We want child abuse to stop. We want children like ourselves to remain safe and not go missing. We want responsible adults to guide us daily and protect us from danger," the Immaculate Conception High School student pleaded.
In the meantime, as it relates to missing-children reports, the registry has revealed that 1,518 children were filed missing during the period January to August this year.
Of this number, six males and three females died, and 212 are still missing. The remainder - 1,297 - safely returned home.
Smith said the Ananda Alert secretariat, set up to improve the response time when a child goes missing, will now embark on a new public-awareness campaign.
"For the Ananda Alert system to work effectively, a major part of the process has to be concentrated around sensitising the public on the search-and-rescue component. In other words, we have to stay in the minds of people," Smith argued.