With communities in Clarendon being identified by child advocates as hotspots for child abuse, some 54 parents in the community of Kilsyth located in the north of the parish benefited from a parenting workshop.
The workshop was one of eight organised by the Child Development Agency in partnership with the First Heritage Credit Union under the theme, Parenting for the Nation’s Sake.
Parents were exposed to topics such as the growth and development of children; child abuse and the penalties; better parenting, and budgeting and financial planning.
Representing Member of Parliament Richard Azan, Mrs. Bridgette Daley-Dixon Constituency Secretary welcomed the staging of the workshop. “North West Clarendon is not immune to some of the issues affecting children in Jamaica, and therefore we welcome the effort.”
“As parents, far too many things are happening to our children and we are not aware of it, because we are not observing our children. Part of protecting our children is that we have to be more observant. If we are an observant mother or father, we will see that something has changed about a child, she said.
Mrs. Daley-Dixon encouraged parents to protect their children with love, noting that when children were not loved they tended to seek love in the wrong places.
In her welcome, Team leader for CDAs Clarendon office Francine Rhoomes lauded the parents for taking time out of their schedules to learn about better parenting, explaining that the workshop was carefully tailored to help parents to sharpen their parenting skills.
She urged them to take back to their friends and families all they had learnt that day and to spread the positive message of child protection in their communities.
Miss Rhoomes encouraged the parents to show their children unconditional love and affection, and that to listen to them not just with their ears, but to observe what is happening to them.
“Don’t tell me you can’t show love because you did not receive it. We are trying to make Jamaica a better place. So you probably used to go to school without shoes, you do not want your children to go without shoes. You want to do better for them than what your parents did for you,” she advised.
FHC Branch Supervisor Ervin Ennis noted that everyone had to work together to ensure that the nation’s children were protected.
“We all have to work together in our communities to listen to our children, and report the issues. We are equally responsible to ensure that the nation’s children are protected so that they can enjoy their childhoods,” he said.
He added that FHC was committed to the cause and would continue to offer financial support to assist the CDA in carrying out its mandate.
In her presentation on the growth and development of children, CDA’s Social Worker Antonette Brooks-Blake told the parents that trust between parents and children was important at all stages of the child’s development .
Underscoring this point as she went through the five stages of a child’s development, Mrs. Brooks-Blake stated: “From as early a stage as infancy trust is important. It is during the first year of their life that the children learn about the relationship between themselves and their caregivers. If children learn from that age that they cannot depend on you, later on in life they will continue to have issues of attachment, feeling that they cannot rely on persons.”
Mrs. Brook-Blake also touched on the issue of shame, encouraging parents and caregivers to avoid shaming their children, but rather to guide them and to be patient, especially when they were just learning to do things on their own.
Especially during the middle childhood phase (5-7 years), parents should teach their children right from wrong, adding that it was the role of the parents to help the children to get successfully through this stage of development to avoid having a child who is rebellious when they reach the teenage years.
Acting Detective Sergeant Yvonne Collins from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) and Julia Smiley Green Public Relations Officer at the Office of the Children’s Registry both explained to parents the different types of child abuse.
Detective Sergeant Collins highlighted the various forms of sexual abuse, urging members of the community not to dismiss their children when they report being abused, but to take the reports seriously.
Julia Smiley-Green explained the role of the Office of the Children’s Registry in collecting reports of child abuse and missing children under the Ananda Alert system.
Taking parents through the six different types of child abuse, namely, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, child labour and child trafficking, Mrs. Smiley-Green urged the parents to make a report to the Office of the Children’s Registry if they knew or suspected that a child was experiencing any of these abuses.
As it relates to sexual abuse, she reminded the parents that it was an offence to circulate pornographic images of children, even to one person, “If it is that you get that material on your phone you are encouraged to delete it and to report it,” she said.
Turning to the issue of missing children, the OCR Public Relations Officer informed parents of the need to have an updated photo of their child in the event that the child went missing as a way of aiding in their speedy recovery.
“Too often we get reports of a child being missing and you ask for a photo and the parents don’t have one. Or they say yes I have one, but the child missing is 15 years old and you get a photo of the child graduating from primary school,” she underscored, adding, “we recommend that you keep a photograph of your child that is taken every six months or at least once a year.”
Mrs. Smiley-Green shared with the parents, the information from the break the silence all media campaign which the Office of Children Registry was running with the support of UNICEF to get more members of the public to report child abuse.
Branch Manager for FHC Mandeville Andre Sampson took the parents through the intricacies of budgeting for their families.
He advised the parents to balance their income with their lifestyle, ensuring that they were living within their means, while saving and planning for the long-term needs of their families.
Mr. Sampson cited a link between improper financial management and child abuse, noting that some parents abused their children when they became frustrated by financial problems.
He urged parents to be wise when budgeting and to cut out unnecessary spending to make sure that they had enough to meet the educational and health needs of their children.
The Kilsyth parents responded positively to the training. Kimoy Vaughn said she found the sessions very informative. “I learnt about the importance of being a good role model for my child,” she said.
Meanwhile, Petra Allen said what stood out for her was the importance of trust between her and her child.
“This is the most training I have received since becoming a mother, and it has opened my eyes to being a better parent to my child.” she said.
Children’s Officer Melesia Smile took the parents through the Man a Yard Lawd video, a drama piece which highlighted various forms of child abuse, and the CDA 10th Anniversary Anthem video fit for children was played.
Rev. Rose Cameron Host Pastor of the Kilsyth Baptist Church led the group in devotions; CDA Investigator Michael Coward chaired the function while Children’s Officer Kimeahia Brown gave the vote of thanks.
Contact: Prudence Barnes
CDA PR Unit