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Stronger Child Abuse Reporting

DCFS Director Deanna Lookloy signs the MOU on child abuse referrals and investigations while other signatories look on. From L-R: HSA Medical Director Dr Greg Hoeksema, Superintendent Marlon Bodden, and Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler.

With the signing of a multi-agency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the management of child abuse referrals and investigations, child abuse reporting and investigation in the Cayman Islands has been solidified.

The co-signing of this standards-of-practice document was spearheaded by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and caps two years of intensive inter-agency work aimed at improving and streamlining policies and procedures on child abuse referral and investigating.

"A significant amount of research went into this document. We looked closely at how things were done, what challenges and gaps existed and how we could address them. The end result is a standard that can be followed across the board, formalising the verbal agreements previously held," said DCFS Research and Programme Development Manager Debbie Webb-Sibblies.

Other signatories to the MOU are the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service's Family Support Unit, the Health Services Authority and the Education Department.

"These are the lead agencies for child abuse prevention, reporting and investigation, and together it is our remit to protect our children from such mistreatment. This MOU will allow us to coordinate professional intervention and will permit better evidence gathering that will in turn lead to more robust prosecution," said DCFS Director Deanna Lookloy.

Explaining that the MOU will also greatly support the new Children Law, especially the provision of mandatory child abuse reporting, Mrs Lookloy said "We want the public to have a clear understanding of this issue. My department is ready to work with schools, medical practitioners and other interested parties to make sure they comprehend the standards of practices as well as the provisions of the law when it comes into effect."

Reporting Child Abuse

Why report: All children need to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. Anyone suspecting that a child is being abused has a responsibility to report it and help protect the child from harm and/or any further danger.

Who can report: Anyone who is aware of, or has reasonable cause to suspect that any child is being abused, e.g., a friend, a neighbour, a relative, a teacher, etc.

Where to make a report: The DCFS Administration Office: 949-0290; Eastern Districts (Bodden Town/North Side/East End): 947-7144; George Town District: 946-0024; West Bay District: 949-1972; Cayman Brac: 948-2331; RCIPS Family Support Unit: 946-9185; The Health Services Authority: 949-8600; The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre: 943-2422.

When and how to respond to abuse:

  • Do contact any one of the above-mentioned agencies if you have reason to believe that a child is in immediate danger.
  • Do not ignore it if you have reason to belief that a child is being hurt in any way.
  • Do not overreact if a child tells you that he/she is being abused.
  • Do not say anything negative about the suspected abuser to the child.
  • Do not pressure the child to tell you of the suspected abuse.
  • Do not delay in reporting any suspected incidents of abuse.

What to report:

  • Information on the child: Name, age if known, address where the child can be found.
  • The suspected abuser: If known include name, relationship to the child, and physical description of the person.
  • The type of abuse suspected: A description of the suspected abuse and when it took place and concern for the child's immediate safety.
  • The child's parents and/or guardians: Names of parents and/or guardians; if they are the suspected abusers describe their behaviour towards the child.

Confidentiality: All aspects of the referral(s) will be treated with strict confidentiality. Only those directly involved in the investigation will be included in discussions pertaining to allegations of child abuse.

Source: Department of Children and Family Services.

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver