Tue | Oct 19, 2021

Call us! Three-digit hotline launched to facilitate reporting of child abuse

Published:Thursday | September 23, 2021 | 12:10 AMAsha Wliks/Staff Reporter

THE COUNTRY’S first-ever three-digit hotline for children has been officially launched by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).

On Wednesday afternoon, during a virtual forum of the 24-hour child abuse reporting hotline, the CPFSA announced their transition from the previous contact number of 1-888-PROTECT to a new, simpler and easier contact number, 211, which is free of charge to users of any mobile service provider.

The hotline, which has been in operation since June this year informed by CPSFA’s CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey, is operated by the National Children’s Registry. The hotline which serves the best interests of children is intended to facilitate a faster way of contact to the appropriate authorities for reporting.

The organisation anticipates that as a result of this, the number of reports will rise, and that more youngsters will self-report.

In her presentation, Education Minister Fayval Williams, who was in attendance, stated that there are 1,200 reports of child abuse per month. She added that 131,383 reports of child abuse have been made in the last 10 years.

“This is a type of service that we wish we did not need,” says Williams, but it is unavoidable since “child abuse is a very present thing in Jamaica”. All the resources that can be made available to help the nation’s children are welcomed and applauded.

Williams also highlighted that St James, St Ann, Manchester, Westmoreland, Kingston and St Andrew, as well as St Catherine, have had the highest reporting rates.

The CPSFA, which is a result of the 2017 merger of the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children’s Registry, has given rise to being more accessible to children and other persons who wish to make reports of abuse.

“One of the benefits of the merger is that registration officers have been deployed to all 14 parishes of the CPSFA and also at the main centre of the NCR. Today, we are pleased to report that through this expansion, services have been more effective as persons can call or walk in to any of the offices to make these reports,” said Gage-Grey.

Since the beginning of 2021, a year marked by emotional, financial, and social hardships, the island’s children have continued to be subjected to abuse perpetrated by their parents and other family members in their homes. Children have had to spend over a year learning at home due to the pandemic’s severe impacts on face-to-face socialisation, schooling, and business.

Many children, who would have felt delightful escape from the tragic experiences of abuse they endure at home because they would spend most of their days at school, have had this sense of a safer environment snatched from them as a result of the pandemic.

Imploring children and others to use this created avenue “to speak up”, Williams says “this is especially important in our current COVID-19 situation where [children] are mostly away from school and the guidance counsellor will not be able to pick up that something is wrong”.

With over 5,500 reports of child abuse having been reported, with the highest form of abuse being child neglect with 2,528 reports made thus far, coming in second is physical abuse with 1,465 reports, and 1,203 reports of sexual abuse and 600 reports of emotional abuse.

Dr Kai Morgan, child psychologist, spoke on the importance of the hotline in saving children who have been traumatised by all types of abuse. As abuse will surely cause learning challenges, unpleasant changes in a child’s behaviour and significant and more destructive effects such as depression and substance abuse, Dr Morgan cites that all these problems are a direct result of the trauma that will undoubtedly be faced by children who are abused.