Joint action to be taken in addressing child endangerment

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Joint action to be taken in addressing child endangerment

The Gender and Child Affairs Division of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Children’s Authority, and the Special Victims Department in the Police Services, have asserted that child protection is everybody’s business.

They are now encouraging the public to report matters where children are likely to be in imminent danger.

The key actors in the child protection ecosystem stress this is even more important, as the Christmas season continues, and the upcoming Carnival season is not far ahead. 

The joint statement on child endangerment is the outcome of a meeting to focus on the responsibilities of responding state agencies to the issue of child endangerment, and held on December 20, 2023, at the Gender and Child Affairs Division’s St. Clair Office. 

For the benefit of parents, guardians and the general public, the joint statement underscores and explains offences involving child endangerment.

“It is an offence for any person placing himself in any street to beg or to cause, procure or encourage a child to do so. Such actions can lead to offenders being fined or imprisoned,” the statement asserts.

It continues: “A child found to be begging, receiving alms or loitering for the purpose of begging or receiving alms is a major concern to the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. In such instances, any member of the public believing that a child is at risk and endangered in this way are strongly advised to bring this matter to the attention of the Authority or the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.”

“Members of the public are also strongly advised to exercise restraint and to desist from exposing children to danger and any forms of abuse,” it added.

At the meeting on Wednesday this week, the Gender and Child Division, together with key Government Ministries/Agencies and other stakeholders responsible for child protection, sought to improve the collective response of enforcement agencies through a greater understanding of the response process; and to explore opportunities on workable solutions to ensure that the rights of children are protected. 

The main issue driving the discussions was the need to ensure that children are protected and cared for and not exposed to actions that are likely to endanger them.

The meeting’s officials all acknowledged the social challenges arising from members of the population who resort to illegally engaging persons on the street for cash or kind, and particularly when children either accompany such individuals or are made to also engage in such activities.

The child protection ecosystem officials also underscored the importance of getting public support in protecting children being endangered in this way.  They noted the power of public engagement and attained consensus for further strengthening of the joint proactive response of state agencies.

The child protection ecosystem officials agreed to continue their collaboration, and are expected to continue discussions for an improved integrated approach to childcare and protection in early 2024.

Leading the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting was Vijay Gangapersad, Permanent Secretary (Ag.), Gender and Child Affairs.

Representatives from the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) present at the meeting were Sheldon Cyrus, Director/Chief Executive Officer; Mrs. Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, General Manager, Child Welfare Services; and Mrs. Vandana Siew-Sankar-Ali, General Manager, Child and Family Reintegration Services.

Participating officials from the Police Service’s Special Victims Department included Woman Superintendent Claire Guy-Alleyne, and Sergeant Nashia Moreau.

Vera Persad, Chief Immigration Officer (Ag), and Leselli Simon-Dyette, Senior Legal Officer, represented the Immigration Division at the meeting.

Also, in attendance from the Gender and Child Affairs Division were Sanjay Singh, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Mrs. Irma Bailey-Reyes, Child Affairs Coordinator; and other officials at the Division.

Members of the public can make reports of child abuse and endangerment to:

●   The T&T Police Service (999)

●   The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago Hotline (996 or 800-2014)

●   The Immigration Division’s Enforcement Unit ([email protected]