Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Violence a real threat for CPFSA field investigators

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2020 | 12:19 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
USAID Country Representative Jason Fraser makes a presentation of one of 80 laptops to CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, Rosalee Gage-Grey, during the opening ceremony of the agency's 2020 Annual Digital Field Services Conference on W
USAID Country Representative Jason Fraser makes a presentation of one of 80 laptops to CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, Rosalee Gage-Grey, during the opening ceremony of the agency's 2020 Annual Digital Field Services Conference on Wednesday. The conference ends on today.

Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) officers have been facing verbal and physical abuse as they intervene in situations that , may sometimes necessitate the removal of a child from a home.

Stacy-Ann Lindsay, head of the investigative unit of the CPFSA, said that even as they try not to contract COVID-19, abuse continues to be a real risk factor for field officers, with at least one physical attack last week.

Speaking with The Gleaner at yesterday’s CPFSA Field Services Conference at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew, Lindsay said that officers have to bank on their experience and the assistance of the police to keep them out of harm’s way as they carry out their duties.

Lindsay said that the COVID-19-induced economic crisis and joblessness being faced by many parents have led to an increase in child neglect, creating the circumstances for intervention by the CPFSA.

“Going out into the unknown, sometimes we go into situations that are not pleasant. We have to sometimes remove children from their situation, so the safety in terms of violence and the possibility of somebody attacking the officers is always a concern for us. It has happened and I suspect it may continue to happen,” she said.

“We are kind of seasoned at taking measures to secure our officers, [even] if it means that we need to pull people from duty, [and] making special arrangements with the [police] to protect people and relocate people,” Lindsay continued. “Our officers are very good, too, at assessing their own personal risk. ... People have tried to carry out threats, but I cannot think of any case where they have been successful, but we have had some close calls.”

She said that the some parents were jobless and unable to purchase gear to protect their families during the pandemic, so her team has to frequently distribute masks to be able to conduct interviews during field visits.

“As a manager, I am concerned. ... When we are going to unknown places, we don’t know what we are going to come up against because people in some parishes take more precaution than others in terms of protection from COVID-19,” she said, adding that her officers have sufficient protective gear. “I am very concerned for the people on my team, but all I try to do is remind them about safety measures and to go out each time with God.”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com