Strong Community Ties Protect the Well-being of Children

The creation of stronger, more nurturing communities that are supportive of family life is one of the mechanisms that can be used to help turn the tide against child abuse in The Bahamas, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said Monday.

Mrs. Griffin made a special plea to parents and caregivers of children to become more proactive in their roles.

“Parents and caregivers have the grave responsibility of ensuring that children are protected and kept safe. You are their ears and eyes against danger and you should be vigilant, over-cautious if you must, erring on the side of caution rather than exposing children to harm – harm that may come as a result of abandonment, neglect, physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse.

“To build strong communities, all members of those communities – inclusive of children – must feel a sense of belonging and acceptance; they must feel that they matter; that they have a voice in what happens in their community. They must feel a sense of closeness, of integration,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“In building community, members must not only be able and willing to help each other, but to receive help in return. They must have a commitment and belief that the community has and will continue to share a history, common places, shared events, time together and similar experiences.

“As 21st century citizens, we have moved away from this concept and have become insular. We view a move to suburbia and affluence as the ultimate dream and that having achieved this ‘we have finally arrived’. Many have thrown off community because we felt that it was too personal and intrusive,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Addressing the launch of Child Protection Month 2017 at the Department of Rehabilitation and Welfare, Mrs. Griffin said it is the intention of child protection officials at the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and the Department of Social Services, along with its partners at the National Child Protection Council (NCPC), the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Unit of the Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Urban Renewal and the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Forces, among others, to spread the message that it is imperative “that we go back to building community because therein lies our hope for reducing, if not eradicating, number of child abuse cases within The Bahamas.”

“As utopian as this may sound, such communities existed as recently as a generation ago and fortunately, there are still places throughout The Bahamas where the sense of community is still strong,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“Whether we want to admit it or not, that strong community kept many a wayward youth in line by providing supervision, role models, help with homework, discipline, good advice, spiritual and moral guidance. We call it the good ole days, but in retrospect, it was really strong community and centres of hope.

“As we bring even greater focus to child protection in April (the month is observed as Child Protection Month), you will find that information being disseminated and accompanying activities are directed towards fostering community-building and hope.”

Mrs. Griffin said child abuse continues to be a global scourge. The Bahamas, she said, is not exempt. Statistics show that re-opened cases for New Providence alone, totaled 567 despite the yeoman efforts of staff at the Department of Social Services and its private and public partners/stakeholders. The numbers for Grand Bahama and the Family Islands combined were 74 and 56 respectively for a total of 697.

“My Ministry, in collaboration with the National Child Protection Council and the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Unit, along with our stakeholders, will continue to do our part to eradicate child abuse through public education and various programmes,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“Additionally, my ministry will continue to provide help to families through our National parenting Programme, individual and group counseling, groups for at-risk youth, material assistance through our Community Support Services Division, Foster Care Allowance, housing and whatever assistance is needed to improve the life of a child.”

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