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Team set up to work on policies to protect children
An inter-ministerial team has been appointed by Government to develop effective policies necessary for the protection of the nation’s children. This comes on the heels of the deaths of 25 children from January to June, the most recent being the death of four-year-old Kimora Millette who was burnt to death at he home at Betsy Street, Potato Trace, La Romain.
Yesterday Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau, addressing the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, Chancery Lane, San Fernando, opened his statement with condolences to the families of the 25 children, declaring that too many children have died. He said his ministry had provided grief counselling to all the families impacted by the loss of a child.
De Coteau said the Government had accepted that a collaborative process was needed to address the deaths of children in T&T. He said his ministry would chair an inter-minsterial team, which would include the Health, Community Development and National Security ministries on child protection. “The team,” he said, “will be responsible for formulating policies effective to the protection of children. We understand that the effective protection of children requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach.”
That effort, he said, would also see collaboration between Government, families and other stakeholders. He said it was critical that there were systems and mechanisms that provided meaningful and long-term protection for children. The national parenting programme, he said, would be expanded. He added: “We realise that we have accepted, taken it for granted that the parents are aware of their responsibilities and that they are aware of what should be done.
“We have some programmes (such as the)... do you know where your child is? Probably we have to come up with another one... keep an eye on your child programme.” He said many times children were seen being allowed to run freely at the mall or on the beach without parental supervision. “How many of you have attended concerts and mass gatherings and find the master of ceremonies coming on stage asking if you recognise this child?” he asked.
He said only when something happened one was quick to blame. Parents, he said, must change the mindset that “it will happen to the other person child and not mine.” De Coteau announced that $20 million has been allocated by Cabinet for hosting of International Year of the Family celebrations which would include various activities at all ministries and a national symposium on the family. He said $7.1 million would be used for public education programmes.
The minister said a two-week retreat has been approved for girls housed at the St Jude’s Home for Girls to assist in their rehabilitation. He said the police, Defence Force, Cadet Force and the Health Ministry would participate in the retreat. The 61 girls at St Jude’s, he said, would also be exposed to guidance officers who would liaise with them as well as their care-givers. That, he said, was a short-term strategic intervention for the girls after complaints and violations.