Parents guide to Child Protection System


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Parents guide to Child Protection System

  2. 2. © National Committee for Families and ChildrenNovember 2005Contributors:Starla Acosta, Judith Alpuche, Aimee Jex, Ava Pennill andStephanie YoungResources:Families and Children’s Act 2000, Department of HumanServices Policy and Procedure Manual, The Conventionon the Rights of the ChildPhotos: Starla Acosta, Cesar VillarWith the support of
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTSINTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................ iiiCHAPTER 1: PLEASE STOP… STOP HURTING ME!! What is Child Abuse?..............................................................................................................1 Signs that tell your child is been abused or neglected. ............................................................4 What can I do to prevent child abuse? .....................................................................................6 Why did my child not tell me about the abuse? ......................................................................8 Why did he/she abuse my child? .............................................................................................9 The impact of child abuse on the child, parents and family. .................................................11CHAPTER 2: HELP IS ON THE WAY. What is the Child Protection System? ...................................................................................14 Which agencies make up the Child Protection System? .......................................................15CHAPTER 3: KNOCK, KNOCK…. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES What is the Department of Human Services?........................................................................20 How did DHS get a report about my child? ..........................................................................21 Why did the DHS get involved with my family? ..................................................................24 What type of investigation will the DHS conduct? ...............................................................25 What are Court Orders?.........................................................................................29CHAPTER 4: WHERE IS MY CHILD GOING? What is “substitute care”? .....................................................................................................30 Do I give the agency any information about my child?.........................................................32CHAPTER 5: WHAT PLANS DO THEY HAVE FOR MY CHILD? What is a “permanency plan”? ..............................................................................................33 What are the types of permanency plans? .............................................................................34 When will the case be closed?...............................................................................................36CHAPTER 6: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?What happens to the perpetrator of the abuse?...........................................................37How do I support my child?.......................................................................................38Who else can help?...................................................................................................41 i
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  5. 5. INTRODUCTIONPurpose of the GuideAs a parent, guardian, or concerned member of the community, youmay find that it becomes very difficult when situations of abuse andneglect take place within your home. You may feel lost, and at timesyou may even give up hope, especially when you cannot understand thesystem that you have come in contact with.This guide will:♦ Introduce you to the world of child abuse and neglect,♦ Help you to identify signs and symptoms and what to look for when a child is being abused,♦ Highlight tips for preventing child abuse and neglect.It will also help you to answer the many questions you may have as aparent or guardian regarding:♦ The child protection system and what it can do for you and your child,♦ The people you will meet and work with while in the child protection system,♦ Your rights and responsibilities,♦ Other organizations that can help you and your family.Remember, this guide alone cannot solve all your problems or answer allyour questions. Let this guide become your companion as you enter theChild Protection System. iii
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  7. 7. CHAPTER 1 PLEASE STOP….STOP HURTING ME!! What is Child Abuse?Child abuse occurs when a person either does something or, neglectsto do something that brings harm to a child, especially if the action wasdone on purpose or if the person responsible should have known thattheir behavior would cause harm. Child abuse occurs in differentways. However, abuse and neglect, in any form, place the child’sphysical, intellectual, emotional and social growth and development inserious danger.There are four main types of abuse:1. Physical Abuse2. Sexual Abuse3. Psychological Abuse4. NeglectPhysical Abuse is any physical injury to a child which is notaccidental and is intended to cause pain, injury or other physicalsuffering or harm. Physical abuse may include severe beating,pinching, burning, shaking, or any other acts that may result in brokenbones, bruises and other marks on the body. 1
  8. 8. Sexual Abuse occurs when a child is involved in any sexual activitywith another person. It includes fondling a child’s private and sexualparts, or making the child fondle the abuser’s private and sexual parts,sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral sex or any other activity of a sexualnature.Exploitation of a child is another form of abuse. Exploitation refersto the use of a child for work or other activities which harms the childand benefits others. This includes child labour and child pornographyand prostitution.Psychological Abuse - also known as emotional abuse , verbalabuse or mental abuse is when children are constantly put-down, callednames or criticized so that they lose confidence in themselves. Severeforms of psychological abuse include extreme forms of punishmentlike locking the child in a closet for long periods or terrorizing thechild.Neglect is the failure of the parent or caregiver to provide for thechild’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional.Physical neglect can include not providing safe shelter, adequate foodor clothing, appropriate medical care or supervision to the child. It canalso include abandonment of the child. Educational neglect includes 2
  9. 9. failure to provide adequate schooling or special educational needs,assistance with homework or school books, or allowing the child to beexcessively absent from school. Psychological neglect involves notattending to the child’s emotional needs, not showing love and supporttoward the child.Some types of abuse are easier to identify than others. A childof any age, sex, religion and socio-economic background can fallvictim to abuse and neglect. As adults in the society, it is ourresponsibility to ensure that all children are being protected. 3
  10. 10. Is my child being abused or neglected?Have you ever wondered why your child has become unusuallyquiet or very violent?Do you ever notice how that little boy or girl stays alone duringrecess?These may be signs of child abuse, but do not think that one sign cansignal abuse. It is better to stay alert and to recognize all changes inyour child’s behavior. Here are a few signs to help you look forsexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect of your child. Sexual Abuse • Has difficulty walking or sitting • Experiences nightmares and bedwetting • Is very knowledgeable about sex • Displays inappropriate sexual behavior • Runs away from home frequently • Is very scared of adults • Does not mingle with friends at school • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult 4
  11. 11. Emotional Abuse Physical Abuse • Is extremely passive• Has unexplained burns, or extremely aggres- bites, bruises, broken sive • Is delayed in physical bones, or black eyes• Does not like going home or emotional and fears parents development • Has attempted• Is scared of being around adults or a particular person suicide • Shows no sign of attachment to parents • Behaves younger than his/her age or displays adult-like behavior Neglect • Is frequently absent from school • Begs or steals money or food • Is usually untidy or dirty and has severe body odor • Persistent health problems • Lacks proper clothing for the weather • States that there is no one at home to provide care. • Frequently wanders the streets 5
  12. 12. What can I do to prevent child abuse?To prevent child abuse, you can follow 8 guidelines.1. Learn the facts and understand the risks The only way to know if a child is being abused is to learn about abuse. Most victims are close to and even trust the people who abuse them, and many children are related to their abuser. Most child victims never report the abuse because they are afraid. Many children are abused by older or larger children.2. Minimize Opportunity You could minimize the opportunity of your child being abused by making sure that your child is not left alone with one person, even if it is someone you trust. You should know where your child is at all times and be sure that your child is with someone that you trust.3. Talk about it Learn to talk with your child about abuse. If you are comfortable talking with your child, then he/she will feel comfortable enough to tell you if anyone wants to take advantage of him/her. You should teach your child about “good touch” and “bad touch” from an early age.4. Be Alert Be alert to signs of child abuse, to notice sudden changes in your child’s behavior, or physical signs of abuse.5. Make a Plan 6 How would you react if you found out that your child was abused?
  13. 13. Think about it. You should make a plan of how you would react, and remember to remain calm, listen to what your child has to say, believe your child and protect your child from further harm.6. Act on Suspicion If you suspect that a child is being abused, report it to the Police or Department of Human Services at 0-800-77638 or 227-2057. Trust your instincts.7. Get Involved Become involved in your child’s life by knowing who his/her friends are. Encourage group activities and supervise as much as you can. You can also donate your time and resources to anti- abuse organizations such as the Department of Human Services orNOPCAN.8. Allow Your Child to Exercise His/Her Rights Your child has the right to express his/her opinion and feelings, and to have those feelings taken into account when decisions are being made that affect your child. Children who arelistened to and who feel that their opinions are valued are morelikely to report abuse. Let your child know that he/she is being heard and teach your child to share his or her opinions andfeelings in a respectful way. 7
  14. 14. Why did my child not tell me about the abuse?As a parent, this is often the first question that you ask, mainly because youmay feel scared as you wonder why your child did not say something toyou about the abuse.Child abuse, especially, sexual abuse is very difficult for achild to discuss with anyone!!The abuser is usually someone close to your child, and this makes it verydifficult for your child to talk about the abuse because the abuser oftenthreatens your child not to tell, or makes the child feel responsible for theabuse. In other cases, your child may be too young and does not have theability to say what is happening to him/her. If your child has a disability,this makes him/her even more vulnerable to abuse.Your child might not know that he/she is being abused because he/she is notaware that certain actions are wrong. It is important that you speak to yourchild about inappropriate behaviours. In other instances, your child mayhave been bribed by the abuser and told that the abuse is actually somethinggood. This happens especially in cases where a child feels unloved at homeand believes the abuse is a form of affection that he/she is yearning for. 8
  15. 15. Your child has the right to be heard! LISTEN to your child. He or She may be trying to tell you something. Why did he/she abuse my child?This question has been asked by nearly every parent whose child has beenabused. We all want to know why a person would do such a thing to achild, especially if that person is a parent or close relative or friend. It isimportant to understand that abuse, especially sexual abuse, is anAdults who are more powerful may find it easy to do as they please with achild. Abuse of a child may occur as a result of excessive punishment.Parents have a responsibility to discipline their children, and punishmentmay be a part of discipline. However, punishment should NEVER lead tothe abuse of a child. The reality is that any action that causes suffering orharm to a child is abuse. 9
  16. 16. Parents may abuse children because they lack appropriate parenting skills,or as a result of drug and alcohol problems, marital problems, or domesticviolence. For some adults, abuse was a part of their childhood experi-ence, and they pass on the same negative experience to their children. It is very important to talk with your child about abuse. Teach your child about “good touch” and “bad touch.” 10
  17. 17. What is the impact of child abuse?A child cannot understand how Someone who is supposed to love and protect them ends up hurting them!The impact of abuse on a child varies depending on the circumstances ofthe abuse or neglect, and the child’s environment. However, abuse in anyform causes emotional harm to the child. Your child can develop healthproblems as a result of the abuse. Stress often arises as a result of abuse.This stress may impact your child’s eating and sleeping habits and evenschool performance. Such stress can also lead to psychological problems,including depression and in some cases, it can even lead your child to bringharm to him/herself or to others.Your child may live in constant fear of anticipated abuse and the abuser.This constant fear can cause your child to withdraw from being around oth-ers or even getting involved in new activities for fear of being abused. Asresult, that child will never develop to his/her fullest potential. 11
  18. 18. Abuse also impacts the entire family. Parents are often angry, scared,ashamed and confused at the thought of their child being abused. Thesituation becomes even more complex and difficult to understand if theabuse was done by a parent, relative or close friend.Quite often, the non-abusing parent blames him or herself for not beingable to protect the child from being abused. Abuse, of any type, has astrong impact on your family because your home is no longer viewed as asafe place. Some families are ashamed of the abuse and try to keep it a se-cret. Abuse also threatens the stability of the family and can cause the fam-ily structure to breakdown. This usually affects the care and support that isnormally provided to the child/children. 12
  19. 19. Now, more than ever, your family needs to be strong to support the victimof the abuse. The issue of the abuse will never go away, but you have a re-sponsibility to your child to get him/her the help that he/she needs in orderto face and recover from this abuse. No matter what happens, keep inmind that the abuse of a child is NEVER the child’s fault. Remember, Talk with your child, Listen to your child, Believe your child, Because you just NEVER know. ANY child can become a victim of abuse! 13
  20. 20. CHAPTER 2 HELP IS ON THE WAY What is the Child Protection System?The main purpose of the child protection system is to provide a safe andsecure environment for every child. It also helps to link families toservices in order to keep families together and will support you in reunitingwith your child, if your child is removed from your home.The Child Protection System is not just one organization; it is a group ofagencies that all work together to provide services to children and families,such as protection, health care, education, and counseling . Theseorganizations include the Courts, the Department of Human Services,Police Department, and other government and non-governmental agenciesthat work together to ensure that decisions are made to achieve that whichis in your child’s best interest. 14
  21. 21. Which agencies make up the Child Protection System?The Child Protection System is composed of 5 main agencies.1. The Department of Human Services is the government body respon- sible for:♦ Responding to and investigating all reports of child abuse and neglect,♦ Helping families solve problems that may lead to abuse or neglect♦ Providing services to these children and families.The primary concern of this department is the protection of the child fromabuse and making decisions that serve your child’s best interest.2. The Police Department is also responsible for investigating all reportsof child abuse and neglect. Reports of child abuse can bemade directly to the Police Department. However, thePolice must work along with the Department of HumanServices to ensure the protection of the child. The PoliceDepartment is primarily concerned with gathering evi-dence in order to determine whether or not a crime hasbeen committed. The evidence gathered is then passed on to the Depart-ment of Public Prosecution for follow–up. 15
  22. 22. Diagram of Child Abuse Investigation Process conducted by the Police Department Child Abuse Report Police Department Criminal Investigation No Charge Charge Trial Not Guilty Guilty 16
  23. 23. 3. Medical Services, which includes all hospitals, clinics, and all medicalprofessionals, are responsible for being familiar with the signs and symp-toms of abuse and neglect. In cases where reports are made to the Depart-ment of Human Services or the Police Department, a medical examinationmust be done if there are visible signs of abuse or enough reason to believethe child has been abused and needs medical attention. Medical examina-tions are necessary to determine the condition of the child at the time theinvestigation is being done. Medical practitioners are also responsible forproviding treatment to victims. During medical exami-nations, evidence of the abuse is usually collected. Thisis necessary in order to bring charges against the allegedabuser. Medical practitioners must often provide experttestimony if the case is taken to court. 17
  24. 24. 4. The Department of Public Prosecution—DPP isresponsible for bringing the abuser to justice by con-ducting all criminal proceedings. Based on the evi-dence submitted by the Police Department, the DPP’smain function is to determine whether or not to filecharges against the alleged perpetrator of the abuse. Once charges arefiled, the DPP must prepare for trial. The decision whether or not criminalcharges should be initiated is based on:♦ Whether there is sufficient substantial evidence♦ Whether it is in the public interest to take the matter to trial♦ Whether or not it is in the interest of the child victim that the pro- ceedings should be instituted.The DPP must prove the guilt of the perpetrator/abuser. 18
  25. 25. 5. The Court System is responsible for giving al-leged perpetrators a fair trial and bringing abusers tojustice. The Criminal Court generally focuses onthe criminal act of the defendant/abuser, while theCivil Court hears the case and makes a decisionconcerning the safety and protection of the child. The Belize FamilyCourt performs preventive work and works to keep families together.Quite often, officers of the Family Court must conduct assessments andsubmit reports to the court regarding the welfare of children. The BelizeFamily Court also reports cases of abuse and neglect to the Department ofHuman Services for investigation. 19
  26. 26. CHAPTER 3 KNOCK, KNOCK…..DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICESWhat is the Department of Human Services? The Department of Human Services (DHS) is a branch of government within the Ministry of Human Development that works to assist all persons in the community to enjoy a better quality of life. The DHS provides a wide range of services to families, children, older persons and persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS. DHS is divided into four main units. They are: 1. Community and Parent Empowerment Project (COMPAR) 2. Family Support Services 3. Child Protection Services (CPS) 4. Child Placement and Special Services (CPSS) Through these four units, the Department of Human Services is able to provide a wide range of services which include financial assistance to families, support services, counseling, substitute and institutional care, parenting education, referrals and services to special populations within society. The DHS is also responsible for investigating all reported cases of child abuse and neglect. The DHS will work along with you and your family to develop a plan to protect your child from harm and provide you with information about child abuse. 20 The people who work in the DHS may be called Community
  27. 27. Development Officers, Children’s Services Officers or Social ServicePractitioners.How did the DHS get a report about my child? The lawsays that anyone who suspects that a child has been abused has amoral duty to report the abuse. There are some persons who also havea legal obligation to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.They are called mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters include:♦ Any person in charge of a public or private hospital, doctors, nurses and all other medical personnel who attend to a child exhibiting signs of abuse;♦ Any family member, teacher, social worker, school counselor, employee of a certified children’s institution, school administrator or principal, deputy principal of any educational institution, probation officer, police officer or any other employee of the Government of Belize whose daily duties entail dealing regularly with children 21
  28. 28. Reports can be made by the victims themselves, teachers, medical personnel, family members, social workers, counselors, employees or officers of the Government, or any other concerned citizen.Mandatory reporters do not need to have proof that a child is beingabused or neglected. They make reports based on their suspicions,taking into consideration their training in detecting the signs andsymptoms of abuse and neglect. Reports are made to the properauthorities so that a thorough investigation can be carried out to eitherprove or disprove that your child is being abused. It must also be noted that mandatory reporters who fail to promptly report a case of suspected child abuse can be fined up to $1,000, be sent to jail or both. 22
  29. 29. We should not keep silent about abuse. We all need to protect ourchildren from all forms of abuse and neglect. Reports can be made bycontacting the Department of Human Services or the Police Depart-ment, or you can also call the 24 hour hotline at Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect. 23
  30. 30. Why did the DHS get involved with my family?When a report of child abuse is made, a worker from the Child ProtectiveServices, which is a branch of the Department of Human Services, willcontact your family.These workers respond to all suspected cases of abuse and neglect and willconduct the proper investigation to make sure that your child is not sufferingor likely to suffer harm. Will I know who reported the abuse?No. The DHS worker will inform you about the report but he/she cannot tellyou who made the report. DHS workers work confidentially, and it is theirduty to respond to any report of suspected abuse and to conduct aninvestigation and safety assessment to see if your child is at risk. Theyunderstand that not all families abuse their children on purpose, but 24
  31. 31. Do I have to allow the DHS worker into my home?No. You do not have to allow the DHS worker into your home; however, itis best for you to work along with the DHS worker. Whether or not youchoose to let the DHS worker into your home, he/she is still legally re-quired to conduct an investigation of the reported abuse. If the DHSworker has reason to believe that your child’s life or safety is in danger, theCourt will issue a Search and Production Order to enter your home and re-move your child or order you to bring your child to Court within 48 hours. What type of Investigation will the DHS conduct?When the DHS worker and the police officer visit your home, both willconduct an investigation. This involves conducting necessary inter-views to find out if your child has suffered any abuse or is in danger ofsuffering abuse.If your child is found to be suffering from abuse, a medical examinationwill be conducted by a doctor. This examination is important as it de-termines the extent of the abuse and the condition of the child at thattime. It is better if you, as the parent, cooperate with the authorities tohave the examination done. 25
  32. 32. If you do not cooperate, the law empowers the social worker and thePolice to have the medical examination completed without your con-sent.A part of the investigation also includes a safety assessment. Asafety assessment looks at whether or not a child will suffer abuse byremaining in the home. If your child is suffering from abuse, anemergency protection removal will take place, and your child will beremoved from your home by the Department of Human Services orthe Police. The Department of Human Services must then inform theMagistrate or Family Court within 48 hours that they have removedyour child. If your child is found to be suffering abuse and it is also determined that your home is not the “best” place for your child, your child will be removed from your home and placed in substitute care. Two separate in- vestigations will then be conducted: a social investigation by the DHS worker and a criminal investigation by a police officer. 26
  33. 33. After the necessary interviews have been conducted, and information re-garding your child, family, and alleged offender has been gathered and reviewed, a decision will then be made as to whether the child will return home, or be placed in substitute care. The decision will be made based on which is determined to be the safest place for your child. Once a placement decision has been made, the Court will issue an order. 27
  34. 34. Diagram of Child Abuse Investigation Process conducted by the Department of Human Services Child Abuse Report Department of Human Services Social Investigation Abuse Unconfirmed Abuse Confirmed Maintain at Home Removal Substitute CareFamily Reunification Adoption 28
  35. 35. What are Court Orders? A Court Order is an instruction given by thecourt, telling someone what they can or cannot do.The Court may issue various types of orders.1. A Supervision Order allows the child toremain at home, under the supervision of theDepartment of Human Services (DHS) . The DHSis required to visit the home on a regular basis tomonitor the situation and to provide informationand support to parents.2. A Care Order authorizes the DHS to remove a child from his/herhome and to place the child them in substitute care. Remember, a childcan be removed under emergency protection without a court order, butthe care order must be obtained within 48 hours.3. A Custody Order takes away custody of the child from the parent(s)and gives it to the DHS. The child can then be placed for adoption.4. A Maintenance Order - when a child is placed in substitute care,the DHS can ask the Court to issue a maintenance order. This orderinstructs parents to pay child maintenance to the DHS. 29 CHAPTER 6
  36. 36. CHAPTER 4 WHERE IS MY CHILD GOING? What is “substitute care”?You have been told by the DHS worker that your child has been placedin substitute care. This means that your child has been placed in asafe, nurturing environment, either in someone else’s homeor in a children’s home/institution. Your child will remain insubstitute care until a plan can be developed. What are the different types of substitute care?When a decision is made to place a child in substitute care, the “bestsubstitute” for your child will be chosen.First, the DHS worker will inquire about any relatives who can providea safe and nurturing environment for your child, and the DHS workerwill assess if your relatives can provide for the needs of your child Thisis referred to as a ‘Relative Foster Home’.The second option will be to place your child in foster care. The 30
  37. 37. families that provide foster care have to meet certain standards set bythe Department for them to qualify as foster families so as to ensurethe safety of your child.Finally, your child may be placed in a children’shome. The Department will do its best to place allyour children together. However, due to differentsituations this may not be possible. In some cases,such as a child needing special treatment or if thefoster family does not have enough space, yourchildren may be placed separately. Remember, the goal is to be reunited with your child. It is your responsibility to show interest in your child and work with the Do I need to give the DHS worker any information DHS worker. aboutYes. It is very important that you give the DHS worker all 31
  38. 38. the necessary information about your child.Information regarding your child’s ♦ medical history ♦ school and learning abilities ♦ eating habits ♦ information about close friends and relatives and ♦ any other information that will help your child receive the best care and make the adjustment to the new home easier. 32
  39. 39. CHAPTER 5 WHAT PLANS DO THEY HAVE FOR MY CHILD? What is a “permanency plan”?Permanency planning is a “comprehensive planning process directedtoward the goal of a permanent, stable environment for a child.”This permanency plan should be developed along with you, the parentand should ensure that timely decisions are made that will provide astable, permanent home for your child. How is the permanency plan developed for my child?The permanency plan is developed after an assessment of your child andyour family has been completed. The DHS worker will then be able toidentify your child’s needs and desires and will work with you indeveloping the best plan for your child. This plan will be reviewed on aregular basis, sometimes a monthly review is recommended. However,you should note that in no way will your child’s plan go longer thanninety days without a review. 33
  40. 40. The DHS is also responsible for permanency planning, making sure that families and children receive proper counselling and support, and that the child is ultimately placed in a permanent and stable home. Permanency planning may result in your child being re turned home once the DHS has determined that he/she is no longer at risk.What are the types of permanency plans? There are SIX various types of permanency plans. 1. Maintain at home: Keeping your child at home is usually the first choice. This plan looks at providing support to families and directs them to other agencies for assistance. 2. Return Home/Family Reunification This plan allows your child to return to your home. You must ensure that positive changes have taken place in your home and that your child will no longer be at risk for further abuse. 3. Family Unification This plan allows for legal guardianship with a relative, placement with a previously unknown biological parent, or reunification with a parent living abroad. 4. Adoption: 34
  41. 41. If the plan is for adoption then a court hearing will take place and a fullcustody order will be granted to the department . This will occur ifyou fail to meet the requirements of a plan or show no sign ofimproving the conditions at home.5. Long-term Foster CareThis is rarely done, and is usually applied to older children or childrenwith special needs. The Department may, however, establish a plan forlong-term foster care. If your child has lived with a foster family formore than five years, and for economic reasons the family chooses notto adopt, your child will stay with the foster family until adulthood.6. Semi-independent living/independent living:This plan is only for a child who reaches the age of 18 years while inthe care and custody of the Department. This plan provides your childwith the necessary life skills to live as independently as possible. When will the case be closed?This is often the first question asked by some parents/guardians, 35 whofeel that their child has been away from home too long. However, a
  42. 42. case can only be closed if the situation improves, the goals of thecare plan have been reached, or the child is in a permanent home andthe child is no longer in need of protective custody or services. Thecase is also closed when a child reaches his/her eighteenth birthday,which is adulthood. 36
  43. 43. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? What happens to the perpetrator of the The perpetrator is the personwho allegedly abused the child. Once a report of abuse has been made, thePolice will conduct a thorough investigation and will gather evidence of thecrime. Once there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed, theabuser is arrested and taken to Court.Depending on the type of charge that the police bring against the allegedperpetrator, the case will either be taken to theMagistrate’s Court or the Supreme Court. The Courtwill determine the alleged abuser’s guilt or innocence.The more severe charges will go to the Supreme Court.If the alleged perpetrator is found guilty of childabuse, the Court will issue a sentence, and theperpetrator will be taken to prison. 37
  44. 44. Even if the abuser is not found guilty by the criminal court, that does notmean that you, as the parent and the Department of Human Services cannotwork together to protect your child. You can still file a civil case againstyour child’s abuser. How do I support my child?If you are the non-offending parent, there are many things that you can doto support your child. Here are some tips to help along the way:♦ Believe your child and let your child know that telling you about the abuse was a good thing to do.♦ Reassure your child and let him/her know that you still love and care for him/her very much. Let your child know that he/she is not alone and that you will do everything in your power to help.♦ Reinforce that the abuse is not your child’s fault. Emphasize that it is never okay for an adult to abuse a child in any way. It is not your child’s fault no matter what anyone else might say. 38
  45. 45. ♦ Get help. Report the abuse to the proper authorities. They can help to give you more information and answer your questions so that you are better able to support your child through this challenging time.♦ Provide a safe environment for your child to talk to you and begin to heal.♦ Understand that your child might also need counseling. There is nothing wrong in getting your child and your family professional help.♦ Go to Court with your child.♦ Work along with the Department of Human Services and the Depart- ment of Public Prosecutions to explain the process of going to Court to your child.♦ Provide a safe environment for your child by ensuring that the alleged perpetrator does not come in contact with your child, intimidate your child or try to persuade your child not to testify in Court.♦ Work with your child and the rest of your family to develop a safety plan so that abuse does not reoccur. 39
  46. 46. Coping with the abuse of a child is a traumatic experience for any fam-ily. Even if you are the parent who caused the abuse, you can work to-ward reunification with your child. It is your responsibility to followthe orders issued by the court and to work closely with the Departmentof Human Services. If you do all that is required of you and you areno longer a threat to your child, then the Department of Human Ser-vices will work with you towards family reunification.If you are the non-offending par-ent, it is your responsibility to protect your child from further abuse byreporting the abuse to the proper authorities, and offering your childthe support that he/she needs. 40
  47. 47. Who else can help?Child abuse isn’t just the family’s business because it affects the en-tire society. It is an issue that everyone needs to pay attention to anddo their part to protect our most precious resource, our children.There are other agencies who can assist you. Agency Telephone NumberPolice Family Violence Unit 227-2222Community Rehabilitation Department 223-2716Belize Family Court 227-4114Belize Family Life Association 203-1018Young Women’s Christian Association 203-4971Young Men’s Christian Association 222-5526BCVI—Belize Council for the Visually Im- 227-7776pairedCARE Belize 223-5986YES—Youth Enhancement Services 223-0970NOPCAN—National Organization for thePrevention of Child Abuse and Neglect 203-0441 41
  48. 48. Remember... Chil to li dren ha ve v unle with th e the ri ss e gh child this is ir paren t ’s be not in ts st in the tere st. ght Children the ri be h protected ave the right to b ave nd to e nh dre inion a taken tation an from sexual expl l da oi-Chi n op nd volvemen buse, including a to ened ousto a ly. t in pros in titution a - list seri pornogra phy. nd Child re abus n have t prov ea he ide p nd negle right to and t ro ct be reatm gramme . The Go protecte ent t s v d o tho for the p ernment from se wh re s o hav vention o hall e suf f Children without a family are fered abuse entitled to special protection, abus e. and appropriate alternative Chil family or institutional care, dre with regard for the child’s prot n have t harm ected fr he righ cultural background. s om tt from them an work t o be getti d ha ng a keeps th t n ed 42 ucat em ion.
  49. 49. For further information, feel free to contact the Department of Human Services in your district. 2nd FloorBelize City Commercial Center 227-7451 or 227-2057 West Block BuildingBelmopan City Independence Plaza 822-2161 5th AvenueCorozal Town 422-2120 George Price DriveDangriga 522-2089 Slaughterhouse StreetOrange Walk Town 322-2283 18 Main Middle StreetPunta Gorda Town 722-2021 Busman Arnold Building Corner Mossiah and VictoriaSan Ignacio Town Streets 824-2098
  50. 50. “Championing the Rights and Welfare of Belizean Children and their Families”National Committee for Families and Children 62 Cleghorn Street Belize City, Belize Tel: 501-223-0059 501-223-1180 Fax: 501-223-1229 Email: