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    Vul ana Vul ana Document Transcript

    • The child protection system – belize, c.a. A VULNERABILITY ANALYS IS
    • THE CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM - BELIZE, C.A….A Vulnerability Analysis
    • Published by the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Human Development,Local Government and Labour.Written by Diana Marian ShawThe author extends sincere thanks to the many persons who were interviewed and whoshared their stories. A special thanks to the nurses, doctors, teachers, school managers,social services practitioners, magistrates, policemen and policewomen and all those whogave their time and contributed toward the publication of this book.This report has been published with the technical and financial support of the UnitedNations Children Fund (UNICEF).First Published:Any part of this report may be freely reproduced. Prior permission is not necessary butaccreditation would be appreciated. ii
    • Table of Contents Introduction i Chapter 4 Executive Summary ii LITERATURE REVIEW Literature Review 17 International Conventions 22 Local Legislation 22 C H A P T E R 1 RESEARCH TOPIC C H A P T E R 5 Research Question 4 STAKEHOLDERS AND AGENCIES–FINDINGS Study Objectives 4 DHS 33 Purpose of the Study 5 Police 41 Major Tasks to be Accomplished 5 Education 46 Health 49 Judicial/Legal 53 Child Care Providers 62 C H A P T E R 2 Community 64 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Background 6 CHAPTER 6 Demography 6 RECOMMENDATIONS Economy 7 Legislative Amendments 66 Family Life 9 Policy Changes 73 Definition of Concepts 11 Public Education 80 Training 81 Resources 82 Structural Adjustments 84 CHAPTER 3 Appendix A 85 QUALITATIVE METHODOLOGY Appendix B 97 The Methodology 12 Appendix C 99 Objectives 14 Acronyms 100 Information Sources 15 References 101
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S INTRODUCTION The 2000 Population Census indicated that in Belize, more than sixty percent (60 %) of the population is under 18. As such children and young people are the country’s most important resources and their protection a national concern. The framework within which the child protection system in Belize operates is set out in the CRC, which provides: “Every child shall have the right to be free from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, abuse, maltreatment, and exploitation.” 1. State parties shall take appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. 2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as, for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow up of instances of child maltreatment described, as appropriate, for judicial involvement1. In Belize this is achieved through a multi-sectoral approach, encompassing the following agencies or sectors2: 1. Ministry of Human Development, Local Government & Labour 2. Ministry of Health, Health Facilities and Professionals 3. Ministry of National Security1 . U.N. Convention On the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 192 Appendix C sets out the critical path showing the involvement of the various sectors.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 4. Ministry of Education 5. The Judiciary 6. Childcare Professionals, and 7. The citizens of Belize In theory this multi-sectoral approach facilitates greater specialization and better uses of resources, yet this multi-sectoral approach can cause overlap in services provided. Where those overlaps occur, the possibility of breakdown in responsibility and, therefore, breakdown in the quality of care can cause a depreciation in the quality of services offered. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Human Development’s Department of Human Services is recognized as the area of government with the primary responsibility to co-ordinate programs and services for the protection of children particularly programs and services necessary to protect children exposed to abuse and neglect. (UNICEF 2001) report3 “recognised the paucity of quantitative and qualitative data as an area of weakness in child protection and other areas covered by the CRC. Recognition was made that laws are generally in harmony with the CRC but in practice, it appears to be “an illusion” and that the general principles were poorly integrated into law and policy. While the law has strengthened the protection system, many gaps still exist leading to many perpetrators going unpunished for crimes committed against children. Additionally, the lack of clear policies and procedures with regard to the continuum of care has also resulted in the re-victimization of children4.” The present analysis seeks to investigate whether the principles and the thrust of the CRC have been entrenched in the child protection system and is demonstrated practically to children, the family and the public by providing a composite picture of all levels of the system in order to identify gaps and ways of reducing the child’s vulnerability. For the purpose of this analysis child protection means: protection of children from abuse and defence of children who are victims of abuse and neglect (child protection); child placements (foster care and adoptions and children’s homes); and family support (financial and other material assistance to help families in need).3 The Right to a Future 2000, A Situational Analysis of Children in Belize, 2001.4 Taken from the terms of reference for this analysis.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S VULNERABILITY ANALYSIS Executive Summary The methodology employed was qualitative analysis, utilizing one on one and group interviews of the various persons in the various departments and of persons who had or were experiencing the child protection system; focus group meetings; workshops and group interviews. Findings: Department of Human Services:  Granting and preserving the identity of children in care  Lack of database of persons convicted of child abuse offenses to check on background of prospective foster parents and prospective adoptive parents.  Disparity between services and unavailability of services.  Lack of standardization of foster care  Gaps in the legislative framework  Lack of inter-department protocols  Lack of proper vehicular support  In the districts, offices are shared which results in a lack of privacy for officers and clients  Inadequate access to computers, fax machines and printers in rural districts and underutilization of technology where it is present. Police  Lack of sensitization training for police in DVU in the districts  Rotation of officers  Lack of training in tailoring investigations for court proceedings and ignorance of law  Lack of written protocols  Lack of co-ordination between investigative division and prosecution branch/DPP Inadequacy of medico-legal forms Education  Lack of training in identifying symptoms of abuse  Dealing with offenders who are educators  Lack of rehabilitative services attached to schools or community  Carnal Knowledge and pregnancy in teenagers
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  Schools intervening to compromise child abuse cases Health  Private areas needed in hospitals for medical examinations  Lack of written protocols detailing standard examination procedures  Improved database in hospital to check if persons brought in before for abuse related complications  Public education (sex education in schools and education to destroy the cultural acceptance of incest and carnal knowledge)  Language barrier between doctors and patients  Lack of training in giving evidence in court  Lack of specialist doctors in rural districts  Inadequacy of medico-legal forms  Informal adoptions of children abandoned in hospitals Legal  Restrictions on children giving evidence; laws and procedures  Lack of legal training of magistrates and prosecutors  Withdrawal of cases  Lack of sensitization training for prosecutors  Lack of training of doctors and police in collecting and presenting forensic evidence and the absence of protocols on these  Lack of early collaboration between prosecution and police  Lack of uniformity in the procedures in Family Court  Lack of legal aid for foster parents seeking formalisation of de facto adoptions  Witness protection needed for some cases Child Care Providers  Inadequate monitoring by social services practitioners  Inadequate discussion with foster parents as to the permanency plans for children placed in care so that foster parents can prepare children  Foster parents not given the history of children and children lose connection with their history in foster care  No specific training given to foster parents with whom children who have been abused are placed, foster parents, therefore, not equipped to help with rehabilitation.  There are no resources to do adequate investigation into the history of child care providers to ensure that there is no risk that they will subject child to further victimization or abuse. This is becoming more important as more first time child care providers are being recruited into the system.  Inadequate attention is given to the need for medical care for children in care.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  The financial assistance given is not adequate to meet the needs of children in care especially older children.  Children in care often have no contact with other siblings who may also be in care.  Counseling available to children in care is inadequate and often only reserved for worse case scenarios.  The psychological effect of being in care, issues of abandonment by parents and self esteem issues of children in care are not addressed. Community  Confusion between the role of the police and the role of the DHS in the child protection system. Members of the community display an insufficient knowledge of who are the agencies involved in the child protection system and what are their roles.  There is unwillingness to participate in the child protection system by making reports to the police or giving evidence to corroborate allegations of abuse to children because persons do not want to go to court and be identified as the informant.  Services available for child abuse do not provide for instances where there is a need to provide victim and guardian of victim an alternative means of support if the abuser is the main breadwinner.  There is cultural acceptance of abuse, especially physical abuse, persons do not know when discipline ends and abuse begins.  There is a lack of integration between NGO’s and the DHS.  Cultural and economic factors hinder expunging sexual abuse of teenagers, especially cultural encouragement of early sexual activity and poverty.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Recommendations: Legislative Amendments: 1. FACA  Provisions for children to give evidence in absence of perpetrator  Better enforcement for non-payment of maintenance  Provisions for care of disabled children  Registration of Guardian Ad Litem 2. Families and Children (Protection of Children) Regulations  decide whether this act will be repealed or enforced. If the act is to be kept and enforced then the following things must be provided for in the act: o proper places to house children, o persons to be legislated who will supervise children at places they are housed and the procedure for care and or placement of children picked up on curfew must be legislated. 3. Families and Children (Child Abuse) Reporting Regulations  the amicus curiae must be mandated to be a social worker. 4. Social Services Agencies Act and Regulations  legislate for social services institutions to have persons trained in social work or counseling available to the children served by the institutions or alternatively there should be provision for the children in the homes to receive counseling. 5. Inferior Courts Act (Alcalde Laws and procedures)  Provisions for greater supervision of Alcaldes.  Provisions should be made in the legislation for them to be sensitised to issues surrounding child abuse  the mandatory reporting requirements must specifically provide for alcades to report cases of abuse brought before them and to supervise or participate in community efforts put together by the Court or the Department of Human Services to deal with child abuse cases. 6. Certified Institutions (Children’s Reformation) Act  Provision for definition of child and setting a yardstick for measuring “uncontrollable behaviour”  the act must provide for mandatory counseling of the children as a way to promote behavioural change and as a way to deal with the issues causing the uncontrollable behaviour, alternatives to manual labour for rehabilitation.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 7. Criminal Code  Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12  Equating the age of legal consent with the age for receiving counseling without parental consent.  Making the offences of indecent assault, carnal knowledge, rape and incest gender neutral  Making the offences of procurement and abduction gender neutral  Criminalising the application of harm to a child for the purpose of disciplining the child.  Providing sanctions for failure to provide necessaries of life.  Instituting witness protection for special cases  Penalising guardians for withdrawing cases 8. The Juvenile Offenders Act  Making definition of child consistent with other legislation  Provision for legal representation of all juveniles  Provision for children charged with adults to have hearings in the Juvenile Court  Provision to remove Boot camp from prison facility.  Provision for children deprived of their liberty to maintain contact with their families 9. Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences) Act  Children brought before the legal system to for crimes to have legal representation  Development of true alternative dispute resolution  Provision for counseling of children 10. Domestic Violence Act  legislative amendments needed to equalize the standard of assistance women who are victims of abuse receive from the state to start a new life with that which is provided to women who are victims of trafficking, especially where they have dependent children. 11. Marriage Act  the age of marriage should be increased to 16 to match the age of consent. 12. The Married Persons (Protection) Act  Removing the threshold on maintenance so that the position is equated with that provided under the FACA 13. Registration and Births and Deaths Act  Provision for giving an identity to children abandoned in care who are not registered 14. Education Act and Rules
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  Criminalising the use of corporal punishment . 15. International Child Abduction Act  protocols to be developed as to how the system set up by the act will work  the responsibilities and roles of each sector to be delineated  regulations under the act to be made 16. Misuse of Drugs Act  Regulations are needed to prevent the use of illicit drugs by children  Provision for alcohol to be recognised as a drug 17. Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act  Criminalising corporal punishment in schools. 18. Indictable Procedures Act  stiffer penalties needed in cases of child abuse  making child pornography an indictable offence 19. Evidence Act  making provisions under the act gender neutral  provisions for children to give evidence in the absence of perpetrators via videotape etc., and include a provision for the judge to make a decision as to whether the evidence of the child will be taken in this special manner based on evidence or material that the prosecution provides. The provision for persons charged with offences against children to be legally represented would prevent a challenge of the legislation on the basis that it denies the accused the constitutional right to be heard.  equating position of witnesses in child abuse cases to position of witnesses in rape.  The right to take evidence via videotape should be restricted to cases where the prosecution established that the child is in need of special protection .  For the protection of child witnesses, judges must be given the ability to waive disclosure in some cases e.g. withholding the address of witnesses needing special protection by having the addresses expunged from witness statements sent to the defendants as well as the name. Also judges should be able to delay the delivery of such statements until a month before the beginning of the trial to ensure proper arrangements in place to protect child and to give child every opportunity to open up about the incident. 20. Labour Act  Define a child  Stating minimum age of admission to work as 15 and 18 for hazardous work
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  The age for part-time work to be 14  Sanctions to be imposed for employing a child in job dangerous to his development.  Regulation of provision of forced labour.  Restricting employment of children in industrial undertakings.  Regulations are needed to prescribe the type, hours and conditions of work of children and to widen the role of the labour inspector and to ensure that the act can be enforced - may need to strengthen institutional capacity and to investigate instances of child labour esp. in rural areas. Policy changes a) Protocol delineation of roles of police and roles of Human Services and of other agencies with clear mandate for them to work together. b) Written internal protocols for all agencies involved in child protection specifying details of the sectoral response. c) Revision of medico legal forms d) Streamline internal procedures of the DHS in relation to child placement, child protection and family support e) Protocol for police to establish child abuse kits and set out requirements for collection and preservation of forensic evidence and to ensure DVU staffed with adequately trained staff f) Protocol for magistrates to ensure uniformity in grant of orders in all districts by providing for rules under FACA g) Data collection of child abuse victims to be improved h) Protocol for health to set out access to medical examination for victims, provision for bi-lingual doctors, strengthening mandatory reporting requirements and for sensitization training of doctors and nurses. i) Must develop a protocol for dealing with children who are disabled, their social, educational and child care needs are not being met, especially in the districts. j) Private process servers to be utilized where police are perpetrator of abuse. k) Protocol to be developed for the procedure on medical examinations so that the process is standardize, must cover what constitutes evidence of broken hymen etc. l) Protocol for judicial/legal must provide for adequate contact between child victim/complainant and prosecutor and to meet with and explain to families when a decision is made not to proceed with prosecution and also to advise families of any alternative legal remedies.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Public Education  Teenagers and young persons need comprehensive program on moral development, sex education dealing with their worth as individuals and the benefits of delaying sexual activity until marriage  Education on the need to receive counseling and its benefits in breaking the cycle of abuse. This should be presented to children within the school system to encourage them to come forward to report abuse to school counselors etc.  Continuous education is needed in the school system on what child abuse is and the symptoms of abuse must be done in schools and institutions housing children  Education on the role of the Department of Human Services vs role of Police  Education on the criminal process in the Magistrate Court as opposed to the civil process undertaken in the Family Court in cases of abuse. Training a) legal training of all magistrates and all prosecutors is needed. b) D.P.P. office also needs sensitization training – basic areas of social work and vice versa. c) The police must be trained on investigative techniques in cases involving abuse where there may be young child victims whose evidence will need corroboration. d) Police also need training in taking statements from children and other special victims and need sensitization training in dealing with special victims before they are placed in Domestic Violence Unit. e) Police need training in giving evidence in court especially forensic evidence of identity etc., Social services practitioners need training on investigation for care order case and presenting evidence in court and how to avoid the hearsay dilemma. f) Training social services practitioners in the districts on proper office management and case management techniques. g) Doctors need to be trained on how to classify injuries as per the Medico-legal form, this training must be done every 6 months or so to keep knowledge current and ensure that new doctors coming into the system understand these classifications and training on how to give evidence in court. h) Police dealing with child abuse cases must be trained on provisions of FACA, the Criminal Code, the Evidence Act and the Criminal Justice Act. i) Police must be required to take photographs of signs of abuse when the medical examination is being done in cases of physical abuse.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Resources a) Each district to have at least two social services practitioners b) Each district to be equipped with its own vehicle. c) better system of stationery allocation especially for the villages to ensure that orders are in the new system so that stationery can arrive on time. They may need to be able to fill their own orders or get stationery from Belmopan. e) must set up a support group for foster mothers where they can meet regularly and encourage each other, should try to establish a system of mentorship with new foster mothers so that they are paired with a more experienced foster mother especially when they are raising children with special needs at least for a few months at first. f) develop a resource base for foster mothers and include them in COMPAR training, where foster mothers are dealing with children with special needs (disability, malnutrition, prolonged or fatal illness) they must be taught coping mechanisms for dealing with these children and the stress these situations can produce. g) need to develop national data base within Human Services to keep track of cases within the district. The data base already existing should be developed and complemented by efficient filing systems in each district including provisions for: 1) record of cases transferred to Belize City 2) original of cases transferred to remain in district 3) proper delineation of who bears ultimate responsibility when cases are transferred 4) where there are no care orders, officers must get a written consent from parents before proceeding with voluntary supervision. That voluntary supervision must have clear objectives, a definite start and a definite end including provision for assessment to see if objectives met. 5) intake forms to be reviewed monthly. 6) utilize 6th from students or social workers on day off to enter backlog into data base, must have an up to date report of cases especially from the districts outside the Belize district. 7) Case transcripts must be obtained and copied to clients, they must know at all times, what orders are being made in respect of their children except where parental rights have been removed. 8) There must be a current order in place for all children in care and these orders must be on the file and be consistent with the recommendations to reconcile or institutionalize or foster place child. i) The on-line system of payments must include funds for providing food for a child in cases where a child has to be placed in emergency care. h) Establish a toll free abuse hotline for children and teenagers to call and report abuse and receive assistance, this should be monitored by the department of Human Services and should be
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S connected with the community so that callers can be routed to community service providers whether state or civil society. i) Need sketch artist as part of police forensic team. j) Need more counselors/psychiatrist attached to Counseling Centre. i) Facilities to encourage Interpol checking of prospective adoptive parents Structural Adjustments a) Enclosed areas for taking statements of victims at police stations b) Private offices in Stann Creek district for the officer dealing with child protection and who has to interview families and children. c) Places/homes in each district to be built or families identified that will house children in emergency situations so that when children in the districts have to be removed from their homes they are not taken to Belize City. Children must undergo minimum displacement, too much to uproot them from home, family and school. This is also counter-productive in cases where a reconciliation with parent is recommended and parent has to visit child as coming to Belize City may mean disrupting parent’s work etc. d) places should be allocated in each hospital where the actual examinations are to be conducted. g) provision to be made for these places to be equipped with trauma nurses. h) The Dorothy Menzies Child care center needs to be re-assessed, the rooms are over-crowded, they are poorly lit and poorly ventilated, there is inadequate privacy for children, children are not being taught life-skills, there is poor development of disabled children placed there as there is inadequate staff to give them the personal care and attention they need. Efforts should be made to place all disabled children at the Center into foster care to prevent further victimization, including assistance with their medical needs.
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 1RESEARCH TOPICThe general purpose of this review is to conduct avulnerability analysis of the child protection system inBelize. Research Question“Where are the vulnerable areas in the child protection system?” Study ObjectivesT he general objective is to produce an analysis document which will include recommendations for policy, procedures and legislative improvements to the child protection system. Objectives that flowed from this are:  To ascertain the gaps in the law and other policy and procedural documents affecting the protection of children in Belize  To ascertain the current status of the structures supporting the child protection system in Belize
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  To ascertain the factors that hinder the convictions of perpetrators of child abuse  To ascertain the experience of agencies and participants of the child protection system in Belize  To make recommendations for policy procedure and legislative amendments. Purpose of the StudyT o formulate recommendations for all local social actors, based on the findings of the study, with a view to contributing to the development of a model for preventing and addressing family violence. Major tasks to be accomplishedUnder the terms of reference for this project the following major tasks were to becompleted:  Conduct Literature review of existing internal and external reports, laws, international conventions that will contribute to the overall objective of the assignment  Conduct review of the current procedures, draft protocols and objectives of the main agencies in the child protective system 14
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  Dialogue with key stakeholders, including the main agencies to determine their perceptions of the system  Observe, investigate the intervention process throughout the system  Conduct interviews with the child protection agencies at all levels  Develop interview instruments for families and children  Conduct random sample interviews with children and families who are/have experienced the system  Examine and analyze the existing structures, approaches and materials of the system  Produce a report that includes recommendations for policy, procedure and legislative improvements  Develop a training manual in working within the legal system  Plan and conduct a two-day training workshop for social services practitioners 15
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 2CONCEPTUALFRAMEWORKWhat is the background to the review? BackgroundDEMOGRAPHYI n 1999 the population in Belize was estimated at 243, 390 persons5. Of this number 52.1 % were under the age of 20 years6. There were no differences by gender7, therefore, policies aimed at protection children must be gender neutral,providing protection equally for boys as for girls8.The distribution of the population varies by district, 29.1% of the entire populationlives in the Belize District. It is also the only district where the urban population ishigher than the rural population. The establishment of the Human ServicesDepartment in that district is, therefore, warranted, the demand for the services ofthe DHS is highest in the Belize District9.5 CSO, 1999b.6 (supra)7 CSO, 199b showed an equal distribution of women and men - 49.9% : 50.1 %.8 The observation of the system and interviews with agencies and clients indicate a bias in treatmenttowards girls, agencies are not sensitized to the particular needs of boys being abused especially withregard to sexual abuse.9 Interviews with social services practitioners, January 2004. 16
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SIn all other districts the rural population is higher than the urban population10.Indeed, at least two-thirds of the population live in rural areas in every otherdistrict11. Toledo and Corozal are the districts with the largest rural populations,housing over three-quarters of the population12. In the districts outside of Belize,social services practitioners indicate that the greatest need for their services comesfrom rural villages many of which are separated from each other by longdistances13. Proper vehicular support is, therefore, a prerequisite to the adequateprovision of services in the rural districts.In terms of ethnic composition, more than 47% of the population is now Spanish-speaking mestizos, residing in Orange Walk, Cayo and Toledo. About 27% of thepopulation is Creole, living primarily in the Belize District. Approximately 11% ofthe population is Mayan living primarily in Cayo and Toledo Districts and about5% of the population is comprised of the Garinagu living in the Stann CreekDistrict and along the Toledo coast14. The effectiveness of services to children in thechild protection system must be sensitive the varying cultural realities while seekingto redefine cultural perspectives in ways that are not detrimental to the long termwelfare of children.ECONOMYThe 1996 Poverty Assessment Report15 showed that 33% of the population is poor16and 13% were indigent17. Poverty is particularly pervasive in the rural areas where42.5% of the population were poor, the Toledo and Cayo Districts were mostaffected18. Poverty is particularly pervasive amongst immigrant rural families,10 Kairi, 199611 (supra)12 (supra)13 Interviews with social services practitioners in January, ,2004.14 CSO, 2000.15 Kairi, 199616 (supra) that is, below the poverty line of BZ$1,287.48 per annum.17 (supra) that is , unable to meet their dietary needs earning less than BZ$751.32 per annum.18 (supra) 17
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I Smany of whom are migrants from other Latin American countries19 and amongstsingle parent led households where the mother is the only breadwinner20. Thecondition of women in rural and urban areas is symptomatic of the condition ofchildren. Mothers who are breadwinners are often unskilled, with low levels ofeducation and are often employed in jobs requiring long hours but which payminimal wages21. These long work hours mean that her children are more likely tobe unsupervised for long hours or left in the care of uncles, stepfather or otherrelatives more frequently and therefore at greater risk of being abused22 orneglected23. Such children are more likely to enter the child protection system24.There has been initiatives by the National Development Fund, and The BelizeEnterprise for Sustainable Development to fund community based venturestargeting women to alleviate poverty amongst women. Nonetheless, theseorganisations are NGOs and do not possess adequate funding to meet the demand.Government aid schemes though possessing greater resources have not beeneffective at financing small scale enterprises targeting women. In addition, servicesoffered under the child protection system are not bolstered by the provision ofadequate day-care facilities for working single mothers or programs aimed attraining them to identify potential abusers or teaching them how to put supportsystems in place to reduce the likelihood of abuse to their children.19 CSO (Impact Belize)20 Girls to Women, 1997, indicated that according to CSO statistics, one in four households nationwide isheaded by women. In Belize City, this figure rises to one in three.21 The Boys To Men Publication, 2000, indicated that such women were likely to be domestic workersbeing paid, below the minimum wage.22 Interviews with person who have/are experiencing the child protection system done in January, 2004,indicated that many of them were abused while in the care of a trusted family member such as an uncle orstepfather when the mother had gone to work or gone visiting friends or family members.23 UNICEF, 1994 citing Jamaleddine, 1990 indicated that only 15% of street children had parents livingtogether. The majority of such children were from broken single parent homes.24 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system, January, 2004. Inaddition, the Boys to Men Publication, 2000 indicated that most of the boys spending time at the YouthHostel by reason of being deemed uncontrollable or in probation programs had little or no contact withtheir fathers. 18
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SFAMILY LIFEIncreasing numbers of families in Belize are suffering from family breakdown.This is usually the result of migration, divorce or children born out of wedlock25.The incidence of children born out wedlock is particularly troubling.Approximately one in five teenage girls, aged 15-19 in Belize are mothers26. Underlaw, these births have all been the result of carnal knowledge, an aspect of sexualabuse. Most of these teenagers are involved in “consensual” sexual unions with thefather of the child. However, many of these women will not be in a stable union andwill be coping without the support of the child’s father and will live in poverty,thereby placing those children at risk for abuse and neglect27. The situation is notdifferent for older women, many of them also have children within visiting unionsor with casual partners28. There is also an increasing phenomenon of single parentmothers migrating to the USA and leaving her children behind to be raised by anelderly grandmother29. The increasing number of single parent and no parentfamilies is a contributing factor to the incidence of abuse in Belize30.In addition, the impact of abuse itself on the individual who is abused isdetrimental. Children who are abused must not only suffer from bruises, wounds,broken bones, loss of hearing, sexually transmitted diseases, chronic stress, but theywill frequently suffer from chronic headaches, sexual disorders, depression, phobiasand persistent fear as well as low self-esteem, which directly affects their behaviourand productivity in school and ability to report the abuse and seek protection31. Thelong terms psychological effects of abuse in Belize is still being investigated, butsuch practices can have direct effects on the health, wellbeing, educationalachievement and economic independence of the victims as adults32. Many of themsuffer such low self-esteem and mental stress that they frequently drop out ofschool, refuse to or find themselves unable to maintain steady employment and25 The Boys To Men Publication, 2000.26 CSO et al, 1992.27 The Boys to Men Publication, 2000.28 (supra)29 (supra)30 UNICEF, 1994.31 PAHO, 2000.32 Girls to Women, 1997. 19
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I Sbecome trapped in poverty. Many of these adults have been so damaged that theybecome conditioned that it is necessary to hurt a child to discipline them and so theywill often become perpetrators of abuse themselves33.A typical feature of various forms of child abuse is its hidden nature. There issubstantial underreporting of cases, studies show that generally only 2% of sexualabuse within the family are reported. Many factors have been contributed to thisunderreporting. Firstly, incidents of child abuse are often regarded as isolated actsoccurring in the private realm, not as a social problem. Secondly, acts of violenceagainst children are sometimes viewed as normal occurrences in family dynamics,that is it is seen as a legitimate act, either as a form of discipline or an expression oflove. Thirdly, many victims of abuse tend to blame themselves for provoking theviolent incident and justify it, this is a mindset that is strongly reinforced bysociety’s attitudes. Finally, many children and those who care for them whorecognize that they have been abused believe that the existing social services orresponses available to support them in solving their problem of violence areinadequate and even detrimental to them.There are other serious problems in understanding the dynamics of violentrelationships and the experiences of the affected individuals, indeed there is littleunderstanding of the specific dynamics of the different types of violence and theirconsequences. There is widespread failure to recognize that child abuse is a learned,conscious and deliberate behaviour, it is practiced by those who believe that theyhave a right to intimidate and control others34.Due to the complexity of the problem of child abuse, its solution requiresstrategically and inter-sectorally co-ordinated policies and actions, with theparticipation of both the government and civil society. The co-ordinated responsesof the health, human development, education, police , judiciary and the non-governmental sectors is an important frontal attack on this scourge.33 (supra)34 Girls to Women, 1997. 20
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Definition of ConceptsDefinitions of the concepts that will be utilized in this study also are included.These definitions are important for all the investigators who will participate in thestudy, so they can familiarize themselves with the theoretical and operationalconcepts to be used.The central focus of this project is the vulnerability of children who are the victimsof abuse, therefore, it is necessary to define the terminology that will be in use.Child: a person, male or female under the age of 18.Abuse: every act or omission committed on a child which harms the well-being, physical or psychological integrity or freedom and right to full development of another family member. Abuse may be physical, psychological/emotional, sexual, abandonment or neglect.Perpetrator: the person inflicting the act of abuse or neglect on the child.Victim: the child being abused.Service provider: These are the person (s) who provide or are responsible for ensuring the provision of support services for children affected by abuse in the communities included in this study. They may be affiliated with institutions in the legal/judicial, police, health, human services, education, or community sectors. Also included in this category are persons who fulfill a social function in the community and who from the perspective of the victim help to break the secrecy surrounding the abuse. 21
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 3QUALITATIVEMETHODOLOGYQualitative research introduces the necessity ofheeding the “voice”, that is, to whom one is speaking,for whom, with whom and why. The MethodologyB y virtue of the terms of reference the central topics of this study are the experiences of persons involved in the child protection system and those who are or have accessed the system for services. The objectives stated above support these topics. Accordingly, qualitative methodologies wereselected to research these topics, this research technique is especially suited to thisstudy because it permits a better understanding of the subjective and symbolicdimensions of human behaviour which may determine why persons access thesystem and the response they will receive as they seek to access service, that is, itallows the influence of the human element to be determined.Qualitative methodology will allow the supply and quality of services and socialresponses to be determined. Quantitative research analyses the social sphere interms of variables and produces numerical data but qualitative research makes itpossible to preserve the chronological sequence of events, place them in the samecontext in which they occurred and derive explanations that are strongly groundedin the sociocultural reality under study, it makes is possible to understand the socialphenomena from the perspective of the actors themselves.Under the qualitative paradigm ethical considerations for the subjects involved inthe study are given high priority, therefore, throughout the process theconfidentiality of the subjects must be protected and they must be made aware ofthe consequences of the study on the subjects. 22
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SBased on the above perspective, the data collection technique of choice inqualitative research are those which make it possible to record the experiences ofthe actors themselves in their own words and at their own pace and that best reflecttheir worldview. To achieve these objectives, the specific techniques used in thisstudy included in-depth interviews, semi-structured interviews, participatoryobservation and group interviews. The understanding of the specific characteristicsand the significance of the cases within their context rather than arriving atstatistical generalizations is the central objective of qualitative analysis, therefore,pure random sampling is not appropriate, further in this case a suitable samplingframe was not available because of severe underreporting.A variation of the “snowball sampling” technique was utilized. This is a variationof the sampling technique most often used in qualitative research. Interviews aredone and they continue until there are no more references to new people or when,after a certain number of interviews, the investigator concludes that she is no longerlearning anything new with regard to the research question.One on one interviews were conducted with the D.P.P. , the AssistantCommissioner of Police and magistrates from the Legal/Judicial sector. Focusgroups were conducted of the police within the Belize District and the ruraldistricts. A workshop into the role and services of DHS and their experiencewith the child protection system was conducted with social servicespractitioners with from every district. One on one interviews were done of thedoctors responsible for medical examination of children in the public hospitalsand one on one interviews were done with the managers of those hospitals.Further, one on one interviews were conducted with teachers, principals andschool managers of primary schools in Belize from the Catholic andEvangelical denominations. One on one interviews were conducted with theDirector of Human Services and the Deputy Director. One on one interviewswere conducted with representatives from the Ministry of Health. One on oneinterviews were conducted with persons from the Belize District and the ruraldistricts, who have or are experiencing the child protection system. One on oneinterviews were conducted with operators of child care institutions and fosterparents. 23
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Objectives a) Child Protection Agencies: These were persons who were direct service providers, specifically, the Department of Human Services, the Police, the Health sector, the Legal/Judiciary sector. The emphasis here was on the function of each sector in addressing and preventing child abuse. There were some sector-specific topics, namely:  Department of Human Services: the role of the Dept in investigation of cases of abuse, protecting children being abused and preventing further abuse, protecting the rights of children and its role in regulating civil society groups providing child protection services and advocating for laws and policies that address the issue of abuse against children.  The Police: the role of the police in intervening in situations of abuse, level of institutional coorperation to address violent situations, records of reported cases, prosecuting cases in the Magistrate Court, conducting investigations.  The Health Sector: the role of personnel in identifying and reporting child abuse among patients, systems of record keeping, referral of detected cases, role of medical examiner in issuing an official report.  The Legal/Judiciary sector: the role of DPP in deciding which cases are prosecuted, the role of the prosecutors in bringing cases, the role of and experience of prosecutors in preparing children to give evidence in cases of child abuse, legislative impediments in securing convictions.b) Key Stakeholders: The interview guide sought to identify:  A description of the work carried out by the institution in general and by the key respondent specifically, with emphasis on the issue of the child protection system. 24
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S  The respondent’s professional experience in the delivery of services to persons in need of child protection services, namely, family support, child placement and child protection (abuse).  Each respondent’s social perception of the child protection system and the need for such services  Training needs for authorities, officials and personnel who come into direct contact with people in need of the services of the child protection system. Information SourcesThe information sources were persons directly connected to the child protectionsystem whether as agencies providing services or as persons who experienced thesystem’s intervention. The Key Stakeholders 1. Department of Human Services Personnel 2. Family Court Personnel 3. Judges in the Magistrate Court 4. Police 5. Health Personnel at the KHMH 6. Managers/Principals of schools/teachers 7. Child care providers 8. Women’s Department 9. D.P.P. Office 10. Children Homes 11. Foster parents 25
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Child Protection AgenciesThe child protection agencies are those persons directly providing services withinthe child protection system. They include: 1. Department of Human Services 2. The Police 3. Health 4. Education 5. Judiciary 6. Child Care Providers Interviews of Families Experiencing the SystemFinally, information sources included actual persons who had experienced thesystem and who would be able to report on the effectiveness of the system toprovide support services as well as the adequacy of services provided.In the Belize District it was determined that there were some 200 reported cases onthe files of DHS in the areas of CPS, CPSS, and FSS in 2002. Therefore, it wasdecided that in order to get an adequate sample size we would start with 44 personsand interview until we could no longer learn anything new with regard to theresearch question. Of this number 22 of the participants were from Child Protection,11 from Family Support and 11 from Family Assistance.In the Cayo District, the health, police, judiciary and human services sectors wereinterviewed.In Stann Creek, the police, health, human services sectors were interviewed and 7families from the Child Protection team. 26
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 4LITERATURE REVIEWThe various international conventions35 of which Belize is a signatoryprovide the yardstick against which the local legislative frameworkunderpinning the child protection system in Belize has been measured andevaluated.. The more pertinent and current evaluations and the legislationconstituting the legal framework for the system will be considered here.T he literature review consisted of those protocols, policy and proceduredocuments, reports and agreements which are most germane to the childprotection system. The followingwere considered: 1. The National Gender Policy. This policy document highlighted the need to address some of the inequalities that exist in the FACA in giving men and women that deny men and women equal access to the Family Court and made recommendations for various amendments to be made to that act to promote equality. The policy document also highlighted some of the provisions of the act that were not enuring to the welfare of children.35 The international which are considered to have been the basis of the child protection system in Belizeare:a) The Hague Convention – which protects children from international abductions and sets out theprocedure for recovery of children abducted ; b) The Convention on the Rights of the Child – which setsout the rights of children as agreed by states internationally; c) The Convention on the Elimination ofDiscrimination Against Women – which sets out the special protection to be given to women to eliminatediscrimination against them on basis of gender and which makes some provisions for the care of children.These international conventions are set out in other publication and will not be set out here but will bereferenced. 27
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 2. The Department of Human Services – Policy and Procedures Manual 2002. The DHS policy and procedures manual sets out the government’s commitment and policy regarding the care of children within the child protection system. The manual governs the operation of the DHS and sets out the format for the preparation of investigative reports and social inquiry reports. 3. The National Child Protection Protocols (draft). These protocols are being drafted to provide a framework for the inter- sectoral response to child protection envisioned and provided for in FACA. The protocols seeks to provide a: a) Written internal policy and procedure for each key ministry/agency involved and reporting . b) Multidisciplinary cooperation and collaboration; and a c) National training plan for the key ministries/agencies by the year 200536. The protocols will supplement the provisions of the DHS manual and will set out in one document what each agency is responsible for so that each agency will know its role and the roles of other agencies. 4. The Family Court Handbook. The handbook is currently used by the Magistrates in the Family Court to provide guidance on the operation of the Family Court according to the Family Court Act and provides information about some of the applications under the Families and Children Act. The handbook though a useful administrative resource for Magistrates is not law and so the procedures set out in it are not binding on persons utilizing the Family Court. There are no rules to the Families and Children Act which can be referred to by legal practitioners, social workers and the general public for guidance.36 National Child Protection Protocols (draft), p. 2 28
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 5. From Girls to Women. Sets out the issues affecting females growing up in Belize. The study identified the uncertainty between the various agencies as to who is responsible for what: “there is uncertainty over who is qualified to report abuse cases and what the precise links are between the health sector and social services responsible for ensuring child protection37. In addition, the study identified that a survey of 600 students indicated that girls were more likely to be exposed to forced sexual activity by a family member. Nonetheless, the study indicates that the actual incidence of abuse is not known as the reported cases represent only a fraction of the actual figures.38. 6. From Boys to Men. The study investigated the main issues facing men as they go through their life cycles as a companion study to that done on females. The study indicated that one out of six to eight male children are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of fourteen39. The study identified some of the general long term effects of abuse to be: a) low self esteem accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame and loneliness, isolation and depression, b) difficulty in trusting and forming meaningful relationships, including disturbed and confused family relationships, c) destructive ways of coping, such as substance abuse, suicide and early sexual relationships that are often risky, d) greater likelihood to be in abusive relationships or to become abusers40.37 Girls to Women, Cameron (1997), p. 47 indicating the responses of participants in a workshop inFebruary 1996.38 (supra) p. 4439 Boys To Men, p. 35 quoting Davis, 1987.40 Boys To Men, p. 35 29
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S The limited rehabilitative services offered to victims of abuse in Belize focus primarily on the removal of the child victim to a residence where the perpetrator does not have access to the child, counseling services focus primarily on helping the child cope with the trauma and are only offered for a short time, usually for the duration of the trial. After that families are left by themselves and there is no follow up system to assist in preventing these long term effects of abuse41. The actual contribution of male childhood abuse to the issues identified as affected males through their life cycles was not investigated. 7. CRC Second Periodic Report (draft). Prepared by the government to fulfill its commitment to implement the provisions of the CRC, to review its progress in that regard and to identify opportunities for further action. The report identified a number of improvements made legislatively, especially the introduction of the CRC but recognised the need for further legislative endeavours to ensure that the treatment of children envisioned by the CRC and the FACA is theirs in practice. The inadequate legislative protection of boys from sexual abuse, rape and carnal knowledge were identified as well as the disturbing reports of the incidence of girls “consenting” to sexual abuse to facilitate continuation of schooling. Currently, the intervention and rehabilitative services offered by DHS do not provide alternatives to these children and many of them withdraw cases from the courts when faced with family pressure because the perpetrator has offered the family money. The realities of poverty and its effects on the abuse of teenagers is under- investigated and rehabilitative services do little to offer female teenagers subjecting to abuse for monetary reasons a real alternative42. 8. The Right to a Future 2000: A Situational Analysis of Children in Belize. The publication offered a comprehensive review of children in Belize and the major issues facing them. With41 Interviews with persons who have experienced the child protection system, January 2004.42 Due to the recent Trafficking law, victims of trafficking ( many of whom are employed as commercialsex workers, a label that can fairly be attached to many of the teenage victims of abuse) are in a betterposition than child abuse victim and victims of Domestic Abuse, such Trafficking victims are givenopportunities to complete their education or to be retrained and/or assisted to find legitimate incomeearning opportunities. Thus disparity must be addressed. 30
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S regards to the challenges facing the child protection system, the study found that legal reform is incomplete, there is inadequate protection for disabled children, boys and immigrant children, that there is a lack of resources to protect the women and children of Belize and that there are rising concerns regarding the abuse of children in institutions. With regards to abuse and neglect of children, the report identified the need for qualitative research to identify whether the provisions of the CRC and the work of the various agencies meant greater protection for children brought into the child protection system because of abuse. 9. NOPCA Report – 2002. The 2001 report showed that in that year 8 girls were sexually abused for every 1 boy sexually abused, girls received twice as many incidents of emotional abuse as boys and were 8 times more likely to be neglected, girls were just as likely as boys to be physically abused. In addition, the primary type of abuse was emotional abuse and the primary abusers were mothers. Intervention continues to be focused on removing children from homes where male abusers have access to them and it should be but there is little or no programs to address the emotional abuse meted out to girls which make them susceptible to other forms of abuse and make them less likely to report other abuse. 10. Mennonite Agreement. This agreement cannot be changed but there is a definite need to work with the Mennonite Community to ensure access to social workers where children are at risk. The welfare of the child being the paramount consideration, Human Services continues to work with the community to encourage greater reporting. More needs to be done to ensure that persons who adjudicate over cases involving relating to family violence are adequately trained and are sensitized to the needs of children who may have suffered the effects of abuse to ensure that services are made available to these children. 11. Child Protection 2002 – Report of cases between the police and social services. This report showed the prevalence of abuse in the Belize City area. This report indicated that the reports of sexual abuse was primarily in the teenage and 10-12 age group. In the teenage age group, most cases of carnal knowledge were “consensual”. Most of the cases of carnal knowledge took place at a home other than that of the victim. The statistics, however, do not show the prevalence of sexual abuse in the other 10 age group or the 31
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S prevalence of physical abuse at all, further the statistics did not show the rate of prosecution of these cases or the rate of conviction. The present reports available in relation to the child abuse system indicate: 1. A lack of accurate data as to the actual incidence of abuse and the trends accompanying abuse and its long term effects. 2. There is a lack of data on profiles of abusers and identifying factors that precede and perpetuate abuse. This is becoming more important as this study confirmed that abuse in institutions by persons whose job it is to protect children from abuse is an all too familiar reality43. To adequately protect children we must be able to prevent child abusers from entering the child protection system and be able to provide intervention programs for parents who are likely to become abusers before abuse begins.International ConventionsI43 Interviews with persons who are/have experienced the child protection system, January 2004. 32
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I Sn Belize, the main conventions establishing the obligation to protect children are: 1. The Hague Convention 2. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 3. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) These conventions will not be set out here since there are already extensive reports on the provisions of these. Suffice it to say that these conventions sets out standards of care that are the minimum standards that states must fulfill to be able to say they are protecting the rights of children. Local LegislationT he analysis below provides a summary of the relevant legislation and anyshortcomings in them that give rise to vulnerability within the child protectionsystem. 19. Families and Children Act44 (FACA) This act sets out the legal framework in which children are protected and cared for in Belize. The act defines the rights of children and the responsibilities of parents and guardians and the state towards children. The act was enacted in 1998 and provided improved protection to children in Belize, nonetheless, there are still some shortcomings of the act among which are: a) Section 8 does not provide an adequate framework for the care of disabled children.44 An amendment was drafted to this act making provisions for: the giving of evidence by children in theabsence of the defendant; care of the disabled children; more stringent enforcement procedures for thenon-payment of maintenance; 33
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S b) Section 63-66 allow greater access to enforcement procedures for collecting outstanding maintenance to children born out of wedlock than that allowed to children born in wedlock. c) Section 54 of the act gives children born out of wedlock a greater claim to maintenance than that provided to children born in wedlock by the Married Persons (Protection) Act. d) There are no provisions allowing children to give evidence in the absence of perpetrators45. e) Provisions requiring imprisonment for non-payment of maintenance has proven to impose hardship on children since fathers simply apply for the maintenance to be suspended during the course of the prison sentence, effectively denying the children of the payment 46. f) The provisions protecting privacy of children have been ineffective in preventing the news media from revealing the identity of children involved in high profile child abuse cases. g) The provisions against the prostitution of children lack enforcement power and have been ineffective in stemming child prostitution47. h) There are no rules of procedure setting out how the FACA will operate in the Magistrate and Family Courts, as a result there is an undue reliance by Magistrates on their policies handbook, which handbook is not a legal document and whose contents are not available to the general public. 20. Families and Children (Protection of Children) Regulations These regulations set out provisions to prevent children being left unsupervised on the road for long periods especially at night. The act sets out a curfew for children and a system of housing children when they are taken off the streets at night. Though on the statute books, this act is no longer being enforced. The facilities necessary to give effect to the act such as a place to house the children was45 The interviews with clients from the DHS as highlighted in chapter 5, indicate that children are fearfulof standing in court and giving evidence before the perpetrator.46 The Penal Reform Act has changed this by providing for Community Service Orders to be made incases of default in paying maintenance instead of imprisonment.47 The Trafficking (in Persons) Act was passed last year and is expected to create in-roads into the level ofchild prostitution in Belize by dismantling child smuggling rings coming into Belize from neighbouringLatin American countries, which are major contributors to the problem of child prostitution in Belize -Heusner, G K (2001). 34
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S never provided, consequently, there were children taken off the road and being housed in the police station, this move is not supported by the public. The act having fallen into disuse has not fulfilled its objective, this is an area of vulnerability for children. 21. Families and Children (Child Abuse) Reporting Regulations These regulations made provisions for the appointment of friends of the court – the amicus curiae, the friend of the court. It is intended that in all proceedings involving children, the court will be informed of the social work issues connected to the child involved before any orders are made concerning that child. This is an important step in ensuring that the rights of children coming in contact with the legal system are protected. Nonetheless, more still remains to be done in the following areas: i. the amicus curiae is not mandated to be a social worker. If the person appointed amicus curiae has no knowledge of social work, they cannot effectively address or assist the court in making an order that secures the welfare of the child. ii. The role and purpose of the amicus curiae is not defined. This has caused social workers appointed as amicus curiae to confuse their responsibilities with those of a guardian ad litem. An amicus curiae is a friend of the court, that person appears to assist the court by providing information in social work that the court will not normally have access to, they are defending the case for the child. They are advising the court of the social work issues involved. iii. Further, while the act imposes a duty on the community to report abuse, there are no sanctions for failure to report, as a result these provisions are not readily complied with. 22. Social Services Agencies Act and Regulations The Social Services Agencies Act and regulations requires all facilities housing children and providing day care for children to become registered and prescribes minimum standards that must be maintained in the physical upkeep etc, of the institution to ensure the proper care of children housed there. The major deficiency of the act is that it does not require social services institutions to have on staff, persons trained in social work. This creates problems where institutions undertake the care of children who are victims of abuse 35
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S or where the lack of social work training prevents the institution’s operators from being alert to and addressing issues arising within the institution that can put children at risk 48. 5. Foster Care (Placement) Rules This act sets out minimum requirements for foster care and sets out requirements for background checks to be done of the foster parents and indicates that placements should try to ensure compatibility with child’s ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds of children. A very important measure in the protection of children since most of the children in care are placed in foster care. This act will ensure a minimum standard of care to all these children. 6. The Inferior Courts Act This act establishes the Alcalde jurisdiction. Under the act, the Alcaldes (quasi-magistrates) are appointed in each district to handle petty criminal offences and debt cases. However, social workers in the Cayo, Toledo and the Punta Gorda districts report that persons in the remote villages in these districts are going to the Alcaldes with cases of child abuse, although these powers are not conferred on them by statute. The problem is that persons in the villages are comfortable with the Alcalde who normally is from the same ethnic group and language background and who may know the family personally. 7. Certified Institutions (Children’s Reformation) Act This act sets up a system of dealing with children who are deemed uncontrollable by placing them at the Youth Hostel under the care and control of the Department of Human Services in the person of the manager of the institution. Nonetheless, the act has some shortcomings: 1) It does not define child 2) the act does not provide for mandatory counseling of children as a way to promote behavioural change and as a way to deal with the issues causing the uncontrollable behaviour. 3) the only rehabilitation offered to children is manual labour48 One children’s home in Punta Gorda was shut down after the institution’s modus operandi began tocause institutional abuse to the children under their care. 36
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 4) there is no yardstick against which to measure uncontrollable behaviour. 5) the act has increased the number of children being institutionalized, most parents are using it as an easy alternative to rid themselves of troublesome children instead of committing to training and counseling to work out issues with children especially teenagers49. 6) the wide powers given to managers of the institutions over the children, in some cases overriding the rights of parents has also caused concern in some circles50. 8. Criminal Code The Criminal Code sets out the offences for which child abusers can be convicted. The deficiencies of this act that are germane to the child protection system are: 1) Under the act, the age of criminal responsibility is 9, elsewhere in the Commonwealth, the age of responsibility is between 10-14 years old. This low age is of particular concern since there are no provisions in our law that children must be legally aided when brought before the criminal court. The provision of an amicus curiae in such a situation would not be sufficient, particularly if the child is charged jointly with an adult or another child who is legally represented. 2) In the act, the age of obtaining counseling without parental consent is set at 18 years while the age of legal consent is 16, this exposes children who are 16 and who might be engaged in sexual activity from receiving counseling needed to address the issues surrounding their early sexual activity and/or medical treatment, including HIV testing. In addition, there is no age of consent for boys. 3) The offences of carnal knowledge, indecent assault, rape are capable only of being committed on females, thus leaving49 Interview with social services practitioners, January 2004 and interview with CRO, January 2004.50 The issue of uncontrollable children is not necessarily a child protection issue unless those children arevictimized in care and is not dealt with in this study. It should be noted nonetheless, that the act as well asthe treatment of children deemed uncontrollable is currently under review and it is understood that the actwill be repealed. Nonetheless, it is hoped that there will be some measure put in place to address the issueof truly uncontrollable children. 37
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S boys who are victims of similar abuse with inadequate redress under the law. 4) Section 62 imposes a more lenient sentence of 7 years on a perpetrator of incest where the victim is between 12 and 18, where as if the victim is under 12 the sentence is 12 years to life imprisonment. There is no justification for the more lenient sentence. 5) While section 60 imposes a penalty for the abandonment of a child under 5 years old, there is no corresponding penalty for abandoning children over 5 years old. 6) Section 55 only prevents stealing of children up to the age of 12, making no provision for stealing children over the age of 12. 7) Sections 49, 50, 52 dealing with procurement of children relates procurement only to females, thus leaving boys with protection under the law against procurement. 8) The criminal code does not criminalize child molestation that does not escalate to carnal knowledge or rape. As a result, police and doctors have followed the artificial procedure of classifying such the injuries resulting from such molestation as harm, wound, maim etc, with the attendant result that if no injuries are present, no charges are made. 9) The criminal code does not criminalize child prostitution. 9. The Juvenile Offenders Act The Act defines child as a person under 16 and a young person as a person between 16 and 18. This has been amended by the Penal Reform Act establishing child as a person under 18. The act sets out how child offenders should be dealt with under the law. The act works in tandem with the Certified Institutions (Children’s Reformation) Act and the Penal Reform Act. The act establishes the Juvenile Court to hear and adjudicate issues concerning children between the age of 16 and 18. The deficiencies of this act are: 1) while the act gives the child the right to be heard in the presence of an adult, there is no entrenchment of legal representation of children brought before criminal courts where they may face sentences of up to life imprisonment. This is contrary to natural justice and to internationally recognised standards. 2) children who are co-accused of crimes and charged with adults are not brought before juvenile courts but are tried 38
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S together with adults, this is not the trend internationally and exposes children to the possibility of being pinned with such crimes since there is no provision that such children be legally represented. 3) no right given in the act for children deprived of their liberty to have contact with their families. 10. Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences) Act This act sets out alternative sentences for first time offenders, juvenile offenders and persons convicted of the offence of failure to maintain their children. The act establishes the community Rehabilitation Department staffed with Community Rehabilitation Officers who are responsible for rehabilitation of persons given alternative sentences under the act. The Community Service Orders are a welcome additional to the powers of the court in dealing with first time offenders and maintenance defaulters. The application of the act has kept many juveniles out of penal institutions and has facilitated their rehabilitation. The implementation of the act is uneven in the districts. There are reports of cases where juveniles are arrested ad statements taken from them in the districts51 without a CRO being notified and reports of cases of first time offenders falling under the act coming before the court and no CRO being notified to prepare a report recommending alternative sentencing52. 11. Domestic Violence Act The act provides for protection orders, occupation orders, supervision orders and assistance to victims of domestic violence. There are provisions under the act that seeks to address situations where children are caught in situations of family violence. The act is primarily concerned with violence on adults particularly women within the context of family relationships. The major deficiencies of the act are:51 Interviews with CROs, January 2004.52 (supra) 39
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 1) where a child as well as a parent is abused within the context of domestic violence, there are two separate legal procedures for dealing with the same incident of abuse, as a result a child abused in a domestic violence incident may be separated from the victim parent and be placed in foster care or in an institution. This impedes the recovery of both53, especially where the victim parent (usually the mother) has to be moved from place to place. 2) the primary focus of intervention in domestic violence situations is secure the safety of the victim, counseling and other specialised services may be delayed until safety is ensured, counseling of victim parent and victim child may be done at separate times by separate persons as they may be separated. This may subject child to further victimization and intensifies trauma. 12. Marriage Act The act sets out the minimum age of marriage as being 14 to facilitate cultural realities, however, this is at odds with the legal age of consent to sexual activity which is 16. 13. Married Persons (Protection) Act This sets out the requirements for maintaining children born within marriage. The act sets a maximum of $50.00 for maintenance whereas the Families and Children’s Act sets no maximum, thus giving children coming under the Families and Children Act (the majority of whom are children born out of wedlock) greater provision to be maintained. 14. Registration and Births and Deaths Act The act sets out the requirement to register the births and deaths of all persons born in and dying in Belizeans. The act imposes the duty on the mother to register children, thereby exonerating fathers and making it difficult for single parent fathers to register children. Indeed, if mothers, do not register children, there is no secondary means of registration, unless the child come into care when the DHS may register them. In addition, there is no provision for giving an identity to children who have been abandoned and whose parents are unknown, many of these children are children of alien mothers and end up in care with no identity.53 Interview with Women’s Department, September 2003. 40
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 15. Education Act and Rules Sets out provisions for the reporting of suspected cases of child abuse but there are no protocols to set out how this reporting works in practice. The act and rules also proscribes the treatment of children in schools by prohibiting corporal punishment but retains it in certain cases. However, no criminal sanction is given for the misuse of corporal punishment though this is clearly physical abuse. Children in the school system, especially in primary schools continue to suffer from its misuse. 16. International Child Abduction Act This act brings the provisions of the Hague Convention into our local legislative sources of law. It gives the court jurisdiction to hear cases of international child abduction and criminalizes international abduction. The act gives jurisdiction to the Family Court, however, observations indicate that magistrates are not prepared to deal with the finer interpretation issues required by the act. In addition, there are no protocols setting out the responsibility of each agency identified under the act. 17. Misuse of Drugs Act The act makes the illicit use of drugs a crime but there is a lack of strong enforcement to prevent shops selling alcohol to children. 18. Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act The act sets out a number of summary offences that can be committed against children. Section 6 which saves the right of teachers to punish children places no restriction on the type and manner in which such punishment can be administered and exposes children to physical abuse masquerading as corporal punishment. 19. Indictable Procedures Act Sets out the indictable offences that can be committed against children. There are no offences under the act that specifically says that child abuse is a crime instead the offences of wounding and harming are used to charge persons who abuse children. As a result, the sentences in cases of abuse where the perpetrator is charged with wounding or harm do not reflect the heinous nature of the offence and does not act as a serious deterrent to such crimes. 41
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 20. Evidence Act This act sets out the procedures that must be observed in court proceedings in both civil and criminal proceedings and some provisions concerning children giving evidence in court. The act stipulates the circumstances in which evidence of children is required to be corroborated. Section 74 and section 91 by assuming that the perpetrator is male does not give redress where the perpetrator is female. In addition, there are no provisions under the act for children to give evidence in the absence of perpetrators54. Section 103 in requiring corroboration of the evidence of children in carnal knowledge cases does not give such children equal treatment with other victims of sex crimes as section 92 imposes no similar requirement on those victims. The practice of forbidding children below the age of 7 years form giving evidence prevents children who can clearly communicate what happened to them from receiving redress since prosecution is usually abandoned in those cases. 21. Labour Act The act sets out the conditions in which children may work prescribing children working in hazardous situations. It also sets out the minimum age for part-time labour involving children. The deficiencies creating vulnerability are as follows: i. The minimum age of admission into employment and the age for part time work are below international standards and recommendation and have the effect of encouraging school drop –outs and preventing persons continuing with their education beyond primary school. ii. There is no sanction under section 54(2) against an employer who employs a child in a job dangerous to his development. iii. Section 158(3) imposes no restrictions on the use of forced labour from children held under a Reform Act, the increase in children coming into the system for uncontrollable behaviour raises the need to regulate this area.54 The interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the system conducted in January 2004 revealeda number of instances where persons indicated that children were fearful of giving evidence beforeperpetrators and one incidence where the child refused to talk in court in front of the perpetrator. 42
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S iv. Section 163 allows for the employment of children in industrial undertakings when they are unlikely to have adequate training to protect themselves effectively in such undertakings and where they could be exposed to chemicals that impede their long term development. v. The limited role of the labour officer described in the act cannot prevent abuse of the provisions of the act especially since the sanctions are so lenient. vi. There are no regulations for the Labour Act prescribing the hours, type and conditions of work of children. 43
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 5STAKEHOLDERS ANDAGENCIES - FINDINGSThe results of the interviews with the stakeholders and agencieshave indicated the deficiencies in the system and are set out toshow the results of the qualitative researchDepartment of Human Services INFRASTRUCTURE The Department of Human Services is a part of the Ministry of Human Development, Local Government and Labour. The DHS is the central agency within the child protection system. The work of the DHS in the child protection system in Belize is a part of its services offered to families and children. The DHS is equipped with social services practitioners who have received specialized training in social work and in the areas of the law that govern the protection of children in Belize. Currently there are 42 social service practitioners countrywide. Of this number 30 are attached to the Belize District office, the remaining 12 are located in the other districts. The out district social service practitioners are supervised from the Belize District office which is located in Belize City. There is established a system of on-line reporting to allow the Belize City coordinator to track cases in the districts, this is reinforced by monthly inspection visits by the Belize City Supervisors to receive updates on cases and a system of regular telephone/fax consultation by out-district staff with their supervisors regarding cases being dealt with. For the better provision of its services, DHS is divided into specialized divisions, of which the CPS, CPSS and FSS are directly connected to the child protection system. 44
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S In the Belize District, officers are placed in different teams and each team is assigned responsibilities under these various service areas. In the rural districts, the Community Development Officer (CDO) is responsible for CPS, CPSS and FSS. CDO’s report that this causes them to carry a heavier case load than their counterparts in the city, however, this perception is not validated by the facts. The records of the DHS indicate that the Belize City officers carry a larger case load than the CDO. Nonetheless, the division into teams in the city has created specialist social service practitioners who have developed specialized knowledge regarding the aspect of child protection that each team is responsible for, this allows for greater efficiency. There is further division within the teams in each service area in the Belize District with specific officers being responsible for a specific stage of the proceedings in each case, this team work is not available in the districts. As a result the CDO tend to concentrate on priority cases55 and non- priority cases often experience long delays. In addition, checks in the records kept by the CDOs indicate that their files are more likely to not be updated making it difficult for visiting supervisors to know from the files what is the current situation of the case and for officers holding over for them during their vacation periods to offer proper follow up to the rural district clients. In addition, it was noted that not all rural districts have ready access to computers, fax machines and printers and where they were present in the rural districts they were underutilized in maintaining proper files. Physically, the DHS in Belize City occupies one floor of the Commercial Center giving it easy access to the Family Court upstairs. In the districts, the DHS offices are shared with the Women’s55 The division of cases based on the seriousness of the report of abuse is as follows:(immediate or within 24 hour response required) Priority I cases will be referrals of current abuse/neglectwhich place the child at immediate risk at the time of the referral. (as soon as possible or within 36 hoursresponse required) Priority II referrals include the same list as Priority I. However, cases in which thechild(ren) is in the hospital, in the protective custody of the BPD or DHS or other safe place where thereis no risk of immediate danger. Priority III (response within 10 days required) Includes school problems,sexual acting out of adolescents, marital conflict, parent/child conflict, neighbourhood squabbles, reportswhich are clearly malicious, or complaints that are repeatedly unsubstantiated, family drug and alcoholproblems where there is no abuse and/or neglect, mental health issues, home study requests or homechecks from outside ministries/agencies. 45
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Department, COMPAR56 or other department of the Ministry. It was observed that this creates a lack of privacy for officers and clients, the sensitive nature of the work conducted by the department in offering services through CPS, CPSS and FSS makes this undesirable. DHS PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM: The DHS sees child protection as the most significant issue currently affecting Belizean children57. The need for consistent review of the services and the methodologies involved in caring for children within the system is viewed as an important measure for ensuring that the quality of services offered meets the needs of the growing population of children subject to abuse and contributed to greater reporting. ISSUES FACING DHS58: a. Lack of proper vehicular support. In the Belize District, the DHS currently rents a vehicle to carry its officers to and from investigations and follow-up visits. This has not been a cost effective measure with some having been spent on rental of vehicle between January 1, 2004 and June 30, 2004. Further, the investigative work required to be done by each service team renders the current system of using one vehicle on rotation between the teams each day means that each team only gets only one or two days each week to conduct investigations and do follow ups. Between January 2003 and December 2003, the DHS in its three main service areas responded to the needs of over 1000 clients in the Belize District with CPS alone constituting more than 600 clients requiring investigations and56 COMPAR :- Community Parenting - trains parents and community in effective parenting, facilitatescounseling of couples, parents and children and conducts parenting workshops in schools.57 Personal Communication – Director of Human Services and interviews conducted with individualsocial services practitioners.58 Contributions from social services practitioners participating in a workshop on the role of DHS withinthe child protection system, DHS, April 2004; interviews of social services practitioners between January2004 and May 2004;focus groups meeting comprising members of other agencies and interviews of keyofficers in the agencies within the child protection system. 46
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S follow ups to be done. In the client interviews conducted, the number one complaint of clients was that the department did not do adequate follow up visits especially with regards to CPSS which are normally priority three cases. This creates vulnerability within the system since without adequate follow up visits, the DHS is unable to objectively ascertain if the placement is proceeding well, currently, problems have been obviated by choosing persons to be foster parents who have a proven record of providing good child care and who are experienced foster mothers and so require less supervisory assistance. However, with efforts under way to recruit new foster mothers, the problem of inadequate follow up visits must be addressed or the potential exists for children to be at risk while in care without the DHS having knowledge of that. In the rural districts, the CDO must rely on a vehicle coming one day each week from another area if the Ministry or on the police for transportation. As a result community visits are done one day each week, with investigations and follow up having to fit on the same day. Consequently, priority one cases are dealt with first and other cases experience long intervals between visits. The exacerbate by the fact that each CDO has the entire district comprising thousands of miles to cover. Interviews with client families in the districts indicate that most follow up happens as a result of the families contacting the DHS district office themselves and updating the CDO of what has taken place. a. Lack of inter-department protocols. The child protection system has as been outlined is multi-sectoral. At present each sector involved pursue their own objectives based on their sectoral protocols, in some cases, there are no written protocols setting out the procedure to be followed in dealing with children who enter the child protection system. DHS staff indicate that this affects their effectiveness in a number of ways. In the first place, the law establishes that either the police department or the DHS is the first point of contact once there is an allegation of child abuse. Currently, police are expected to contact DHS as soon as possible after receiving allegations so that DHS can be a part of any efforts to remove and place children as well as observe an initial medical examination and statement taking of the child victim and or perpetrator. There is no written protocol establishing the interaction between these two departments and there have been cases where the DHS are not notified 47
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S immediately or are not provided with information concerning the progress of prosecution of offences. This creates a loop hole in the system as DHS are expected to prepare clients and family for interaction with the criminal justice system but in many instances lack the information to do this effectively. Further, because of the substantial interaction that is necessary between the police and the DHS at the initial stages of the investigations there is considerable overlap in the investigation required. The practice has developed for the police to rely on results of investigations by the DHS who may have more initial contact with the victim and the family. This creates vulnerability in the system by undermining the strength of cases that the police prepare since the underlying objective for the investigations are different. While the police will need any information that the DHS has that establishes guilt, they will always need to conduct their own investigations since the purpose of the police investigation is to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime charged took place while the purpose of DHS investigation is to establish on a balance of probabilities whether the child needs to be removed or what other orders need to be made to secure the protection of the child from further victimization. The focus group meetings held with the various agencies and interviews conducted with clients found that there is not a clear appreciation by the public, police, DHS and medical agencies of the unique roles of the police and the DHS in the initial investigative stages. This has compromised criminal cases in the magistrate and supreme courts as there are cases which are thrown out in the courts because an incomplete or improperly done investigation did not provide substantial evidence of guilt 59. Other areas affected by the lack of inter-department protocols are the procedures for medical examination. Interviews with clients and with officers of the medical agency within the Belize District and in other districts indicate that there are variations between members of the medical agency who perform examinations as to the protocol to be followed during such examinations60. Some members of the medical agency give priority for examination to DHS and child victims, others59 Interview with the DPP in January 2004, Belize City.60 Interview with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system, February 2004. 48
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S require appointments to be made, in terms of the actual examination itself, some doctors will take swabs and order blood tests as of course once there is evidence of skin breakage or penetration, others will not unless that is requested by the DHS officer present, in addition some doctors require parents to be present at the examination, others are satisfied with the presence of the police and the DHS. The DHS interaction with the courts has also shows the effects of the lack of inter-sectoral protocols. Most of the interaction between DHS and the court takes place at the magistrate level in the Family Court in Belize or in the family jurisdiction of rural magistrate courts. The family court procedures are set out in its handbook. However, this handbook does not specifically cover how cases coming under the child protection system should be dealt with, much is left to the discretion of individual magistrates. As a result there is considerable variation between the requirements required by the Family Court and the district courts to establish cases for care orders. In addition, some areas directly affecting the child protection system such as the relinquishment procedure are not dealt with in the handbook at all. This creates vulnerability as the department may be denied an order to protect a child in one district when another district will grant an order in another case where the very same information is presented and the same procedure followed. Further, though the Child Abuse Reporting Regulations require mandatory reporting and the Education Rules require teachers to report cases of abuse to the police or the DHS, interviews with teachers indicate that many are reluctant to report evidence of abuse. In addition, many of the church run schools have established their own internal methods of dealing with families and children subject to abuse though protocols establishing in what cases schools can intervene and the extent of the intervention that can be made by schools are non-existent. There have been cases where families and schools have agreed to deal with suspected cases of child abuse within their own school management instead of initiating criminal proceedings61. This is an area of vulnerability since DHS is not made a part of that decision making process to not prosecute and it is likely that there is inadequate consideration of the need to protect the welfare of the child.61 Interviews with primary school managers, January 2004, Belize City. 49
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S b. Gaps in the legislative framework. Though the FACA is the primary legislation utilized by DHS in pursuing legal proceedings within the child protection system, it is part of a larger legislative framework including the Criminal Code and other legislation concerning with criminal proceedings. There are gaps in the framework which creates vulnerability to children, these are dealt with in toto elsewhere. However, the work of the DHS is impeded by the gaps in the FACA. These areas of vulnerability for children include the lack of any rules governing the implementation of the act in the court thereby causing the court to use its procedural handbook as quasi-rules. This is undesirable since that handbook does not have the force of law. In addition, court records indicate that families are going to the magistrate courts in the absence of social services practitioners to relinquish children to strangers and that the rural district courts often grant these orders. Many of these children are then taken out of the country permanently, this is an abuse of the FACA since it requires any permanent change of custody regarding children to be based on a custody order or an adoption order and places children at risk since the procedure can facilitate trafficking of children. c. Disparity between services and unavailability of services. One of the primary services needed by children within the child protection system and their families is counseling to overcome the effects of the victimization. In the Belize District, this is facilitated by trained counselors attached to the Belie Counseling Center. In the rural districts, there are no such services. DHS has no counseling facility in the districts and must therefore rely on the public health nurses 62. This often results in a loss of privacy since such nurses are not trained counselors and do not necessarily abide by confidentiality requirements by which trained counselors consider themselves bound. In addition, the lack of specialist training in the nurses means that the rural district child victims receive a lower standard of care and their effective recovery may be impeded. There is also a lack of availability of other services in the rural districts such as specialist doctors, absence of legal aid and the ready access to NGOs to supplement services offered by the DHS.62 In more serious cases arrangements are made to have counseling done at the Belize Counseling Center,in Belize City. 50
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S In addition, there is no psychiatrist attached to the DHS or the counseling center, as a result long term psychological care of persons who have suffered the trauma of abuse especially sexual abuse is non-existent. The lack of psychiatrist also means that the court is not appraised of long term effects of the abuse on the child which information would aid with sentencing, nor is the court apprised of the mental state of the perpetrator in bail hearings. Further, clients of DHS also indicated that they have encountered residual issues in children who have suffered abuse once contact with DHS is complete but do not have adequate counseling or support systems to assist with those problems and the DHS is unable to provide long term follow up once the abuse has been addressed63. This lack of services necessary for effective rehabilitation creates vulnerability in the system because it prevents the child protection system from restoring children and families. d. Lack of standardization of foster care. There is no written minimum standard of care that must be provided by foster parents. Much is left to the discretion of the foster parents, because most of the parents within the foster care program are long time foster care providers and have very good relationships with the DHS most problems have been averted. Nonetheless, foster parents indicated that they needed guidance at the outset to know the minimum standard of care that should be given to children in their care, this was particularly expressed by foster families dealing with children with special needs such as victims of abuse and children with life threatening illnesses or disabilities64. The number of children coming into the child protection system as a result of a primary care giver dying of HIV or because they are HIV positive has increased in recent years. There are no written protocols on the care to be given to such children nor is training provided to foster parents as to how to care for such children or other children with special needs. Foster care regulations are being worked on, their institution will provide much needed guidance and structure to the foster care system since of the over 400 children in care nationwide some63 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system, January 2004.64 Interviews with foster parents in Belize District in January 2004. 51
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 300 are in foster care. The need to ensure that all children in foster care receive the same standard of rehabilitative care is imperative to the continued success of the program in preventing institutional abuse and further victimization of children brought into the child protection system. 6. Granting and preserving the identity of children in care. Foster parents and operators of children homes report that there are a number of children brought into care who have no proper identification documents, especially alien children abandoned by their families. These children cannot be placed for adoption by the DHS as they lack identification papers and remain in permanent foster care or in institutions. When they become adults the lack of identity prohibits them from seeking professional training and employment, they cannot even register for social security. There are currently, no provisions under the Immigration Act or the Registration of Births and Deaths Act to accord such children an identity. These children are been victimized by the child protection system in being denied one of the basic rights provided by the CRC. 7. The victimisation of children in institutions and by child care providers. There are growing concerns about abuse that children in the care of child care providers become subject to. Children reported being placed in institutions after being abandoned by their parents and being hit or pinched by child care providers in institutions, there was one report by a female child that she had been sexually abused by an older male child at the institution65. That institution has since been closed but there are no proper systems in place to prevent such abuses from happening. There were also reports of persons going to the police station to make reports concerning an alleged incident of abuse and the child being ridiculed by the officers at the station66.65 Interviews with persons who have/are experienced the child protection system, January 2004.66 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system, January 2004. 52
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Police Department INFRASTRUCTURE At present there is no specific area within the Police Department that deals exclusively with child protection, however, the domestic violence unit is being trained to specialize in this area. The CIB unit within the Police Department facilitates the investigation of criminal cases involving children. Once the report has been made to the Police Department, they will usually call in the DHS who will take over the aspect of seeing to the needs of the child and for pursuing proceedings in the Family court from that point onwards. At that point the Police will be primarily responsible for investigation and for prosecuting the criminal aspect of the case. The Police Department’s involvement in the system is derived from their primary responsibility to protect the community and bring offenders to justice. In addition, under the Child Abuse Reporting Regulations, members of the public may make reports for child abuse either to the DHS or to the Police. As a result they are often the first point of contact into the system. The Assistant Commissioner of Police works closely with her investigative team and the domestic violence unit in high profile child cases and this close networking has proved beneficial in Belize City, this level of expertise is often not available in the districts. As a result many reports of abuse emanating from the districts are not well put together and show lack of adequate investigation, and are often turned down for prosecution by the DPP or are dismissed in court causing the perpetrator to return to the community where the victim lives and in at least one case the alleged perpetrator who has been freed has threatened the victim and the family. 67 PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM686: The police department consider the protection of children in Belize to be an area of growing concern. In particular there is an increase in the67 Name and location withheld.68 Police focus group - CIB, DVU and Assistant Commissioner of Police, January 2004. 53
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S number of carnal knowledge cases reported with child perpetrators69, they consider current laws and procedures inadequate to deal with child perpetrators of abuse and alien children from the Central American region are most susceptible to this kind of abuse. Their investigations have also uncovered a worrying trend of parents in inner city communities prostituting children or the children prostituting themselves for food and other amenities. ISSUES FACING THE POLICE: 1. Inadequacy of medico-legal forms. The police will look to the medical examination to see if the medical evidence supports the allegations being made by the victim before charges are laid. However, the medico legal forms currently being used do not have any express provision for the indication of sexual abuse. In some instances, the doctor does not indicate whether the hymen is intact or whether or what evidence of penetration is seen. 70 Indeed, some doctors are not aware of the evidentiary requirements under the Criminal Code and the Evidence Act that the medico-legal form is seeking to establish. This has resulted in the forms being of little evidentiary value in court which makes conviction unlikely. 71 2. Lack of co-ordination between investigative division and prosecution branch/DPP. The Department of Public Prosecutions is seeking to have trained prosecutors at the Magistrate level by placing civilian prosecutors in these courts instead of police prosecutors. These civilian prosecutors are answerable to the D.P.P.’s office. They are usually handed case files after police investigations are completed and charges made. There have been many instances when files are sent up for prosecution and have to be returned to the investigative officer because a vital piece of evidence was missing or the investigation in a child abuse case was incomplete.72 It is69 Police Statistics - 2002.70 Police focus group - CIB, DVU and Assistant Commissioner of Police, January 2004.71 Interview with Director of Public Prosecutions, January 2004.72 CIB, DVU and Assistant Commissioner of Police, March 2004 CIB, DVU and Assistant Commissionerof Police, March 2004 54
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S submitted that the prosecutors are brought in too late in the proceedings and so are unable to guide police in the matters that must be established via investigation to secure a conviction. This causes delays in prosecuting these cases and increases the possibility that witnesses will not turn up at trial or that the matter will be withdrawn by the victim. 3. Lack of written protocols. The police lack written internal procedures as to how to take statements from child witnesses to ensure sensitivity and privacy is respected, how to prepare them for trial and protocols as to how to and who can order medical examinations. The latter has become extremely important in light of reports that some doctors will not want to perform an emergency medical examination if 72 hours have passed since the alleged incident occurred since and semen left on the victim would have already died73. This exposes child victims to further victimization and is a vulnerable area in the child protection system since the primary goal of the medical examination must be to secure the health of the victim, delays in treatment exposes such children to infections and diseases. The FACA makes provision for the police to order a medical examination be done but there is no procedure within the police department as to how this provision should be given effect to.74 Further, the police are required to make an inter-agency response with the DHS but there are no protocols as to how this inter-agency response will operate. In addition, there are no express protocols as to which unit of the police will handle child protection cases. The practice in most districts is to have the DVU handle cases where the child victim and the perpetrator are related or living in the same home, in other cases the CIB handles the investigation75. The current operation of this system has created some problems, firstly, the CIB and DVU staff is frequently rotated76, especially in the districts, and replacement officers may not have come from a DVU elsewhere and so will have no training in the sensitivity required to deal with child73 Interviews with social services practitioners – December 2003.74 Interviews with police officers in the rural districts - January 2004.75 Police focus group - CIB, DVU and Assistant Commissioner of Police, January 2004.76 Interview with Police officers in rural districts- January 2004. 55
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S protection issues, the lack of written protocols to refer to exacerbate this problem. Secondly, the public is not aware of the practice to separate the cases in this manner and there was a complaint that a victim was told to go to CIB, the victim went reported the incident there and was ridiculed by the CIB officer in the presence of other officers and then sent to the DVU where the victim had to relate the story again. This resulted in a loss of privacy, embarrassment for the victim and further victimization of the victim77. In addition, there are no protocols providing for the need to protect the rights of children arrested for crimes or brought in to the police for uncontrollable behaviour. There have been reports of such children being taken before magistrates without a CRO being appointed to represent the interest of the child 78. This impugns the provisions and intent of the Juvenile Offenders Act and is an express breach of the CRC79. 4. Lack of training in tailoring investigations for court proceedings and ignorance of law. In the last year there have been a number of child abuse cases thrown out of court on the basis of a no case submission, in some instances this is because of the failure on the path of the victims and witnesses to follow through on commitments to attend court and give evidence. 80 In other cases, cases are thrown out because there were technical flaws within the investigative process such as an improperly conducted identification parade or an improper collection of evidence 81. Evidentiary requirements in the criminal justice system are77 Interview with family who has experienced the system, name and location withheld.78 Interview with CRO – January 2003.79 See Articles 38 and 40 –CRC. The inadequate implementation of the provisions of the JuvenileOffenders Act, the Penal Reform Act and the Probation of Offenders Act continues to be a sour point. Thesecond CRC report identified this as an aware of concern. There are still reports of children being arrestedand place in cells with adults, there was an allegation last year of an accused female being raped by apolice officer while in protective custody. The CROs also report that children are brought beforemagistrate courts without legal advice , reports of police harassment, humiliation, intimidation andbrutality. Such abuses emanate from the absence of written protocols within the police department forchildren accused of crimes. Such cases are beyond the scope of this work but information uncoveredduring the conduction of interviews for this study indicate that there is urgent need to address the situationof juvenile offenders.80 Interview with the Director of Public Prosecutions- January 2004.81 Interview with the Director of Public Prosecutions- January 2004. 56
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S based on local and international courts’ interpretation of the provisions of the Evidence Act and on Criminal Practice and Procedure established by the court. The police do not have continuous training in the changing requirements and in most districts do not have access to research materials to educate themselves on these82. It was observed that there is a general absence of knowledge of Evidence Rules and procedures and in some cases an absence of knowledge of the provisions of substantive law. This creates vulnerability in two ways. Firstly, it impedes accurate, effective and complete investigations and thus contributes to the low conviction rate. Secondly, police who are called as witness in court often find their evidence objected to by defense attorneys or rejected by the court, in which case the perpetrator will be freed and allowed to return to the community putting the victim at risk for further abuse. This lack of training is most noticeable in the districts.The Department of Education INFRASTRUCTUREIn Belize most schools are owned and operated by churches, nonetheless, theseschools must be in full compliance with the rules and regulations of theEducation Act 1991, its subsequent 1996 amendments, and the Education RulesAct of 2002.This is achieved through a church/state partnership with the Ministry ofEducation being responsible for the management of the national educationsystem, and for ensuring compliance with the Act and its Rules while thechurches are responsible for recruitment and management of staff within theirschools and administering education to children.82 Interviews with police officers in the rural districts – January 2003. 57
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SDue to their daily contact with children, teachers are in a unique position toidentify symptoms of child abuse and to receive reports from children that theymay be suffering from child abuse. In addition, many villages do not have arepresentative of the DHS nearby and may not have a police station but theywill have a school. Teachers in those districts have a unique position ofinfluence in their community. The Families and Children Act imposesmandatory reporting requirements on teachers requiring them to report anyinstance of child abuse of which they possess knowledge.Indeed, many of the schools have their own internal procedures for dealingwith abuses occurring within their staff and even procedures on how to dealwith abuses where parents are suspected of abusing children. There is a needfor the school to have its own intervention system but care must be taken toensure that internal procedures do not supercede the DHS procedures or therequirements of the Education Act or the Education Rules.PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM:While teachers recognize the importance of making reports to the DHS andteachers recognize that child abuse is detrimental to the proper development ofchildren, many are not willing to become a part of the legal process aswitnesses as they do not perceive that there are sufficient safeguards in place toprotect them from reprisals in the event that their reports result in convictions. 83ISSUES FACING THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT84: 1. Lack of training in identifying symptoms of abuse. Basic exposure to the symptoms of abuse and the need to report abuse is a part of the teacher training program offered at UB, which is the primary teacher training program. However, in 2000, the percentage of fully trained primary school teachers was 57 %, with 49% of teachers in rural areas being trained compared to 67% in urban areas. Therefore, up to half of the teachers currently in primary school83 Interview with primary school manager in Belize City - January 2004.84 Interviews with teachers, principals and school managers of Primary Schools – January 2004. 58
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S never had this basic training in identifying the systems of abuse in children and the need to report. The DHS through its COMPAR unit and NGO’s such as NOPCAN and NCFC has sought to tackle this problem by facilitating workshops and seminars in schools to sensitize teachers as to the symptoms of abuse and the need for compliance with mandatory reporting requirements. In spite of this, teachers in at least one denominational primary school reported that they had limited exposure and training in identifying the symptoms of abuse in children and did feel comfortable with the exposure that they had. Schools do not provide continuous training for teachers in this area and there is a high turnover rate of teachers in primary schools85. This creates vulnerability in the system since outside of the family situation where the abuse likely occurred, most of a child’s time is spent at school. If that teacher is not equipped to identify abuse and/or does not consider it a requirement to report that abuse, children under her care may never receive the intervention needed to abuse and protect them from further abuse. 2. Dealing with offenders who are educators. The Education Act provides for the infliction of corporal punishment that is neither excessive nor harmful to the child for serious and repeated offences and only by the principal or senior member of staff86 . In spite of this, there are numerous reports that corporal punishment is still being used for minor and one-time offences. The DHS’ COMPAR unit and NCFC has undertaken public education drives to train teachers in the use of alternative forms of discipline but many teachers are fundamentally opposed to the withdrawal of the right to inflict corporal punishment citing as the most effective means of maintaining discipline in over crowded classrooms. The situation is facilitated by a comprehensive written protocol dealing with corporal punishment as a form of abuse and the implicit tolerance of corporal punishment by most school management. Children continue to be at risk from this scourge in schools and are not yet effectively protected in this area. 3. Lack of rehabilitative services attached to schools or community. In the rural districts, schools complained that once the abuse has been reported and the perpetrator dealt with the child returns to school85 The Second Periodic Report of the CRC (draft) indicated that 95.0% of 40 schools investigated had 1-5teachers leave during the year of the study (1997/98). Interview with school managers indicate that this isa general trend each year.86 The Education Act s. 27. 59
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S and there is no follow up service within the school system to offer counseling to the child. In some instances, these children are unable to re-integrate in the school environment especially in the villages where the perpetrator is known at the school and where often there is no alternative school where the child can be transferred, instead the child is often pulled out of school and their education interrupted or stopped87. These children face a double victimization, firstly, when they are abused and secondly, when the stigma associated with being abused prevents them from re-establishing normality to their lives, denies them needed social interaction and educational advancement. 4. Carnal Knowledge and pregnancy in teenagers. Police statistics report that between the ages of 15 to 18 the primary abuse to children is sexual abuse or unlawful carnal knowledge. This becomes an issue for schools because these statistics also indicate that in the majority of this abuse to secondary school age children, the perpetrators are other children of similar age. With the age of consent being 16, any sexual activity involving a girl under that age is considered abuse. Schools report that this carnal knowledge often results in the girl becoming pregnant and that as it is contrary to school policy for students to become pregnant, these girls are generally expelled. This policy is being challenged as it penalizes the female student by denying her an education while allowing her male counterpart to continue with his education. This is a very difficult issue to deal with. On the one hand the right of the school to protect the tenets of faith on which their schools are established and to which parents have impliedly consented by applying for their children to attend that school, on the other hand such children have a right to be educated. Great sensitivity is required in tackling this issue but it continues to be an area where the rights of children are not protected equally and exposes female “victims” of this kind of carnal knowledge to vulnerability. 5. Schools intervening to compromise child abuse cases. There were reports of primary schools holding meetings with parents in cases where there were allegations of one child abusing another child and settling the matter at the school without informing the DHS88. School managers remark that when there are allegations of abuse the87 Interviews with primary school managers -January 2004.88 Interview with persons who had/are experiencing the child protection system, January 2004 andinterviews with school managers. 60
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S school would investigate the matter and meet with parents and determine the gravity of the situation before deciding whether DHS would be notified89. This has created vulnerability since it adds to the number of unreported cases, making planning difficult and also it prevents DHS from making an assessment whether the best interest of the child was protected. It is not known how widespread this practice is and further investigation into its prevalence will have to be done. The Health Department INFRASTRUCTURE Health professionals are major contributors to the inter-agency care of children that extends beyond the initial referral, assessment and medical-legal process, into multidisciplinary team meeting attendance, participation in planning and the ongoing treatment and support of the child and family. Under our laws the evidence of children must be corroborated in some material particular before any perpetrator can be convicted of any sex crime against children. In most cases, this corroboration is provided by medical evidence of the doctor’s examination of the child for signs of abuse. The participation of the Health sector is important in ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. In addition, the child who has suffered abuse is very often in need of immediate medical care and follow up medical treatment. In addition, doctors are required under the mandatory reporting requirements to report any case where during general treatment, evidence of abuse is identified. PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM They recognise the importance of their participation in the child protection system, nonetheless, the influx of short term contract doctors89 Interviews with school managers, January 2004. 61
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S from overseas has had a negative effect on the development of a trained, committed cadre of doctors within the child protection system. ISSUES FACING THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Lack of written protocols detailing standard examination procedures. There are reports by the police and by the DHS that there are differences in how different doctors conduct the medical examination to identify the signs or lack of signs of abuse, particularly sexual abuse. There are reports of one doctor saying that the hymen of a child suspected of being sexually abused was broken when another examination by a gynaecologist indicated that the hymen was intact90. This was confirmed by interviews with doctors who indicated that general medical training does not offer extensive forensic training, this is an area of specialty as a result general practitioners are aware of the finer details of identifying injuries associated with sexual activity etc, unless gained by experience as there are no written protocols standardizing the procedure to be followed on medical examination. This is an area of vulnerability in the child protection system since convictions rely so heavily on the medical evidence. 1. Lack of specialist doctors in rural districts. As a result of the heavy reliance on medical examination, the court is unwilling to allow a general practitioner to give medical evidence in a child molestation case unless his extensive experience demonstrates that he is an expert in that field or the defence makes no objection to him testifying. In the rural districts, this becomes a challenge for the medical profession as there is a lack of specialist doctors in the districts. Currently, DHS relies heavily on private doctors to conduct medical examinations, this is an expensive procedure and may cause delays in getting medical attention to the victim since private doctors will sometimes require appointments to be made. The problems associated with this have largely been absolved by the willingness of magistrate courts to accept the evidence of general practitioners. The problem arises in the Supreme Court where the defendant is likely to be represented and where the qualifications of the90 Interview with Social Services Practitioners - February 2004. 62
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S doctor must be laid out before he can be accepted as an expert and be allowed to give evidence. 2. Inadequacy of medico-legal forms. Current medico-legal form does not assist doctors in identifying abuse since it does not have any provision for indications of forensic identifiers and does not prompt doctors to make forensic examination. In the case of physical abuse only cases where a general examination conducted by a doctor indicate visible signs of abuse are medico-legal forms completed and charges laid. In the case of sexual abuse, charges are laid only cases where the hymen is not intact. Further, the explanation on the forms as to what constitutes harm etc. do not conform to current legal requirements needed to establish carnal knowledge. In many instances a second medical examination must be done to meet legal requirements. The examination procedure is an intrusive procedure which can be as traumatic as the abuse itself. The forms create vulnerability by contributing to the low conviction rate and by causing many victims to suffer an additional trauma of a second medical examination. 3. Lack of training in giving evidence in court. Doctors interviewed indicated that they did not like to perform the medical examination as they will have to attend court to give evidence and that can be an intimidating experience as their evidence is often challenged and sometimes not accepted. Giving medical evidence in court requires a background in forensic medicine or training in what how to present medical evidence in court and how to deal with the objections of defence attorneys. The lack of training on the part of many doctors places children in the child protection at risk as it contributes to under-classification of injuries in the hopes that no charges will be laid so there would be no need to attend court and also contributes to the low rate of convictions. 4. Lack of proper data-base to track incidence of child abuse in patients. There has been developed a data base to track the treatment of women due to allegations of domestic violence, there is no similar data base to track the treatment of children due to allegations of child abuse. As a result, data on the incidence of child abuse in Belize is lacking and proper policy making is hampered. 63
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S In addition, doctors making examinations are unable to check the database to see if patient has been previously treated for injuries associated with abuse. This kind of information would strengthen cases brought where the perpetrator is a repeat offender against that victim but legal proceedings were never initiated in the first instance as it will establish propensity. The lack of such facility renders such children vulnerable and prevents charges being laid in cases where there are no express signs of abuse. 5. Language barrier between doctors and patients. Many of the doctors in Belize are expatriates for whom English is not a first language. In their dealing with patients who speak English as a first language, they may be unable to develop the rapport that is needed between doctor and patient for the doctor to ascertain accurately what happened to the patient. This is not aided by having interpreters. The incidence of expatriate doctors also means that these doctors are on short term contracts. Due to the extensive time delays experience in prosecuting matters in the courts, these doctors may no longer be present in Belize when the matter comes up for hearing and no other can give evidence on their behalf. This creates vulnerability as the case is often withdrawn in those cases because of the importance of the medical evidence. The perpetrator is allowed to go free and often returns to the community where the child lives and the child gets no re- dress for the wrong done. 6. Lack of public education (sex education in schools and education to destroy the cultural acceptance of incest and carnal knowledge). The current sex education program in schools has been slow in causing children to protect themselves from abuse or encourage greater reporting and continues to leave children at risk. There continues to be widespread public acceptance of incest and of carnal knowledge which impedes government initiatives to stem abuse. 7. Informal adoptions of children abandoned in hospitals. There have been reports of children being abandoned in hospitals and of doctors allowing strangers to sign them out of hospitals who are unwilling to report such children as they fear them being placed in an institution where they will not receive adequate 64
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S ante-natal care91. DHS indicates that such fears are unsubstantiated as new-borns are not placed in institutions but with foster families. Nonetheless, the practice continues and places children at risk by destroying hopes of family reconciliation or relative placement which are objectives of current government policy and the CRC.The Judicial/Legal Sector: INFRASTRUCTUREThe judicial/legal sector consists of the Court system – (the Supreme Court;Magistrate and Family Courts; the D.P.P. and the prosecutors at the Magistratelevel. The legal sector is the enforcement end of the child protection systemand is directly responsible for the protection of children from perpetrators.At the Supreme Court level, it is the responsibility of the Department of PublicProsecutions (DPP) to review and, where appropriate, file and conduct allcriminal proceedings instigated on behalf of the BPD. In the context of thechild protection system, the cases that come to the Supreme Court under itscriminal jurisdiction are the indictable matters or summary matters triableeither on indictment or summarily. The criminal cases which are heard in theMagistrate Court are summary jurisdiction offences or offences triable at thesummary level with the consent of the accused92. Under its civil jurisdiction theSupreme Court, child protection cases include orders for custody ormaintenance or appeals from orders made by the Family Court as well asadoptions.The Family Court is a Magistrate Court established by the Family Court Act tohear matters affecting the family. As such cases concerning custody,maintenance, removal of children by the DHS, status of children, appointmentand removal of guardians and proceedings under the Hague Convention are allbrought in the Family Court. The Family Court is located in Belize City but sitsin the Magistrate Court in the other districts. In Belize City, the Family Courthas its own cadre of Magistrates, in the other districts, the District Magistrate91 Interviews with social services practitioners- January 2004.92 A list of those offences is provided in the appendix. 65
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I Shears family proceedings and on occasion there is a rotation system from theFamily Court to clear off any backlog of Family Cases.There is a two-tier approach to child protection in cases where there areallegations of physical or sexual abuse. Firstly, the abuse constitutes a crime onthe individual and the perpetrator is liable to be prosecuted under the relevantsection of the criminal code. In addition, there is a civil element to these cases,where the DHS must secure the welfare of the child by seeking various ordersunder the FACA in the Family Court for the safe removal, maintenance,custody or care of the child to prevent further abuse.The social services practitioner appointed to the case will initiate proceedingsin the Family Court on behalf of the child. These proceedings may proceed atthe same time that the D.P.P.’s office is initiating and prosecuting the criminalcase in the Supreme Court or Magistrate Court. The social services practitioneroften serves double duty, representing the interest of the child in the FamilyCourt proceedings and acting as amicus curiae in the criminal proceedings.It is the Prosecution Branch on the advise of the D.P.P. that decides whichcases will be proceeded with in the criminal jurisdiction of the MagistrateCourt, the D.P.P. decides which cases will proceed in the criminal jurisdictionof the Supreme Court.To secure convictions in the Magistrate or Supreme Courts, the prosecutor mustprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator committed the crime. Tosecure an order in the Family Court, the social services practitioner must proveon a balance of probabilities that it is in the best interest of the child for therelevant order sought be granted. Interviews with social services practitionersand member of the police indicate that the importance of this distinction is notclearly appreciated. One of the more important consequences of this distinctionis the need for the police to control the investigation process for criminalproceedings. There were reports from the police that social servicespractitioners did not furnish police with statements and reports quicklyenough93. While it is appreciated that there is a need to reduce the traumacaused to the child by reducing the number of times the child must repeat thedetails of the abuse, it is clear that social services practitioners not trained incriminal investigative procedures cannot produce reports that will lead tocriminal convictions, as their reports are geared at meeting the much lowerstandard in the Family Court, thus it is not unusual for the DPP to decide that acriminal case cannot be proceeded with and the Family Court to rule on thesame evidence that the child needs to be protected from the same individual.93 Interviews with police in rural districts - January 2004. 66
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SAt best reports can only provide additional leads for the further investigation ofthe police. This practice has created vulnerability within the system with theDPP department that on a number of occasions, files are sent to them from thepolice investigative unit and the information on the files do not provideevidence needed to substantiate the charge made to gain conviction in theSupreme Court and so files have to be returned for further investigation94.PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM:Magistrates, judges and prosecutors all recognise that they are the mostimportant and often last hope for the protection of children within the childprotection system. The current low conviction rate of child abuse perpetrators isa concern to all and there is a recognized need to strengthen the various arms ofthe judicial/legal sector. In addition, they perceive a growing and worryingtrend for prosecution to be initiated and then withdrawn by parents or guardiansof victims or a absence of major witnesses on the day of trial all resulting insuch prosecutions having to be abandoned 95. This wastes the court’s time aswell as resources applied to that case and effectively denies other victimsaccess to the court. Further, it sends a wrong message by contributing to thelow conviction rate96.ISSUES FACING THE JUDICIAL/LEGAL SECTOR: 1. Restrictions on children giving evidence; laws and procedures. Under current legislation, the child victim must first be found competent to give evidence under oath, if the child is found incompetent to give such evidence, the perpetrator cannot be convicted unless the child’s evidence is corroborated97. In many instances, this has the effect of disqualifying the child from giving evidence since the perpetrator and94 Interview with the DPP – January 2004, Belize City.95 Interviews with police prosecutors, the DPP and magistrates in rural districts.96 In a recent case brought before the Supreme Court, the D.P.P.’s office was forced to withdraw the casedue to the non-attendance of a key witness, the Judge remarked that it is a worrying trend that he is seeingin the court where witnesses do not turn up for trials and expressed the view that the D.P.P.’s officecannot be blamed when those cases are abandoned or thrown out, the public must understand their role inproviding evidence needed to secure convictions.97 Section 103 of the Evidence Act. 67
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S the child victim are often the only witnesses to the crime98. This legislation is not in keeping with current legislation internationally99. Further, children are often fearful of standing up in court to face the perpetrator to give evidence 100. In other jurisdictions, children are allowed to give evidence via video-camera to prevent contact with the accused101. In addition, there are reports that children are fearful of reprisals from the perpetrator if the child gives evidence of the abuse 102. In many instances, the perpetrator is a family member or close friend of the family and lives with the child or in the same community. There is no child protection system to protect children and family members from reprisals. Clients of the DHS indicate that such reprisals are a real danger as the child and the family are often threatened or pressured by the perpetrator to abandon cases103. The extent to which this contributes to the abandonment of cases by guardians and parents is unclear 104 but it does contribute to the abandonment of cases and is an area of vulnerability in the system since the fear of reprisals, real or perceived can prevent persons coming forward to prosecute cases. 2. Lack of legal training of magistrates and prosecutors. Currently, most of the Magistrates in the Family Court and the Magistrate Courts are not qualified attorneys-at-law. There are reports that this causes problems where the accused is legally represented. Specifically, the magistrate is often not aware of all the evidentiary procedures required to be adhered to and is unwilling to rule against defense attorneys who raise procedural objections105. This concerned is mirrored by clients of the98 Interview with the DPP - January 2004, Belize City.99 (supra)100 Interviews with clients -February 2004, Belize City and rural districts.101 The draft amendments to the FACA makes provisions for the child witness in court proceedings in theFamily Court to give evidence via video-camera., however, these amendments have yet been assented to.102 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system - February 2004,Belize City and rural districts.103 (supra)104 Both the police and the DPP office indicate that their investigations indicate that informalinvestigations indicate a wider incidence of cases being abandoned because the perpetrator offers thefamily money to compensate the victim and to abandon cases than the incidence of cases being abandonedbecause of fear of reprisals. There is a need for further investigation in this area.105 Interviews with social services practitioners - January 2004. 68
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S DHS who report that in cases where the accused is legally represented the prosecutor is often prevented from adducing important pieces of evidence because they did not follow the proper procedure and then those cases are lost106. In addition, there are often numerous requests for adjournments in cases where the accused has legal representation and the magistrate is more likely to grant a request for bail by an attorney- at-law even if the prosecutor objects107. In response, these shortcomings are current efforts by the Attorney General’s Ministry to strengthen the magistracy by providing opportunities for legal training of magistrates and there are currently at least one member of the Family Court and at least 4 members of the Magistrate Courts that are legally trained, the number will continue to grow as the program is strengthened. In addition, a system of introducing civilian prosecutors, under the supervision of the DPP office, in the magistrate courts nationwide has been implemented to develop a cadre of trained prosecutors in the civilian courts to erase the current disparity108. 3. Withdrawal of cases. Currently, police are faced with a growing trend of child abuse cases where the parents or guardians of the child victim or the teen aged victim informs the court on the day of trial that they no longer wish to proceed with charges109. Police indicate that the number of cases where this seems to be happening is on the increase. Police suspect that the cases are being withdrawn because the parents and guardians are accepting monetary gifts from perpetrators to discontinue proceedings110. In at least one case, the matter was withdrawn by the teenage victim because her parents consent to her marrying the alleged abuser, thereby rendering herself a non-compellable witness against him111. Police indicate that in most cases involving teenage victims of abuse, the teenager has a regular “consensual” sexual relationship with the perpetrator and the parents are aware of the abuse, their investigations have uncovered cases where parents receive regular monetary contributions to supplement household income from the106 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system - February 2004,Belize City and rural districts.107 (supra)108 Interview with the DPP - January 2004, Belize City.109 Interviews with police in Belize City and Cayo District – January 2004.110 (supra)111 DHS files. 69
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S perpetrator and makes a report to the police that there is abuse when moneys are not paid only to come and withdraw the case when the perpetrator resumes monetary contributions to the home 112. Parents and guardians interviewed, some of whom had discontinued cases initiated against perpetrators did not confirm these allegations, rather they indicated that cases where withdrawn because the police investigation took too long or the magistrate gave the perpetrator bail and allowed him to return to the community and they feared reprisal attacks113. They also indicated that they did not receive notices of the hearing well in advance of the date of the hearing and so could not make proper preparations for their witnesses to attend court to give evidence on their behalf114. Nonetheless, the continued withdrawal of cases just prior to hearings or at the first hearing contributes to the low conviction rate and the public perception that child abuse cases are not being prosecuted and child abusers go free, this perception is dangerous for the long term effectiveness of the child protection system since it discouraged participation by victims and therefore must be addressed as an issue of vulnerability in the system. 4. Lack of sensitization training for prosecutors. Clients of the DHS report that police prosecutors and prosecutors from the DPP in interviewing children and preparing them for trial did not show sufficient sensitivity to the horror the child had experienced. One parent reported how after the initial interview with the prosecutor, the child refused to speak about the incident again and when asked questions in court refused to answer and the case was dismissed115. The difficult appears to be that parents do not appreciate that the prosecutor must prepare the child for questions the accused or his attorney-at-law is likely to ask and must prepare the child for the adversarial nature of criminal proceedings. The parents and guardians also indicate that there is no perceived by prosecutors to inform them of the progress of investigations, the progress of cases and of the reasons why prosecutions are abandoned 116. This has created mistrust between the public and police prosecution with most parents and guardians interviewed taking the view that the112 Interviews with police in Belize City and Cayo District – January 2004.113 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system - February 2004,Belize City and rural districts.114 (supra)115 (supra)116 (supra) 70
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S prosecution branch was not serious about prosecuting cases of child abuse117. On their part, the D.P.P.’s office admits that no sensitivity training is provided to prosecutors and would welcome the assistance of the DHS in providing this 118. Some effort has been made to alleviate this by requesting amicus curiaes from the DHS and requesting that they prepare the children for the trial process, this is a welcome advance but is not sufficient in as much as social services practitioners lack knowledge of criminal procedure. This training would prevent the current complaints by parents and guardians that the criminal trial process subjects the child to further trauma and delays recovery119. Children should not experience further victimization or trauma in seeking redress for the wrong done to them and the lack of continuous sensitivity training for the personnel involved in the legal/judicial sector exposes them to that risk and must be addressed. 5. Lack of training of doctors and police in collecting and presenting forensic evidence and the absence of protocols on these. The D.P.P.’s office reports that police files sent to them for prosecution often reveal a failure to collect and/or failure to present evidence collected in a legally accepted manner120. Currently, there is no forensic unit attached to the police and the only access to police with any forensic skills comes when the CIB is called into a case. However, the CIB is only called in when the perpetrator is a stranger to the victim. Police statistics indicate that in most cases the perpetrator is known to the victim. In these cases the DVU is called in to handle the investigation, there are no persons with forensic training in the DVU. Indeed, there is no forensic laboratory in Belize. The effect of this is that police investigations primarily consists of statements from victims and perpetrators supplemented by the medico-legal form. Thus in cases where the abuse is not admitted and there is insufficient proof of penetration, no charges are brought or in cases where the medical evidence is not strong the prosecution will withdraw the case especially where the victim is under 7 years old and unlikely to be allowed to give evidence under oath. As a result there are a number of children who have been abused who have not been given redress because there are currently no means of supplementing117 (supra)118 Interview with the DPP in January 2004 in Belize City.119 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system -January 2004.120 Interview with the DPP in January 2004 in Belize City. 71
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S statements with forensic evidence such as traces of semen visible under UV light at the scene of the crime, DNA evidence where the perpetrator denies the abuse but penetration is proved, or DNA evidence from samples of skin or hair caught under fingernails where the victim struggled with the perpetrator , photographs of injuries to supplement medical examination, etc. International, this kind of evidence is being depended on more than circumstantial police evidence to gain convictions as this prevents innocent persons being pinned with the crime and prevents cases that are weak circumstantially from falling through the cracks. This may also solve the problem of low convictions and encourage greater witness participation. The D.P.P.’s office indicates that there are plans underway to equip Belize with a forensic lab and to train police investigators to collect, analyze and present this kind of evidence121. 6. Lack of early collaboration between prosecution and police. The practice within the police department is to prepare the case for court and then send the file to the DPP or prosecution branch. Often this preparation is completed months after the incident has occurred. In many instances, the DPP report122 that they have had to return cases to the police because the investigation is incomplete. This creates further delays before the matter can be prosecuted or if the matter is already in court will likely result in the prosecution being withdrawn. This is the result of lack of early collaboration between the police and the prosecution branch/DPP and creates vulnerability in the system by contributing to the low conviction rate and the unwillingness of victims to proceed with cases which they feel are taking too long to be prosecuted especially if they have re-instituted some sense of normalcy after the abusive event. For many victims, long prosecutions delay recovery by prolonging the torment of having to rehash and mentally replay an incident the victim would wish to forget123. 7. Lack of uniformity in the procedures in Family Court. Social services practitioners indicate that there is a lack of uniformity of procedures in the Family Court especially with respect to the requirements for care orders124. They report that in some cases one magistrate will not grant a121 (supra)122 (supra)123 Interviews with persons who have/are experiencing the child protection system -January 2004124 Interviews with social services practitioners - January 2004, Belize City and rural districts. 72
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S care order on a set of facts another magistrate will grant it in another case on the same set of facts125. In addition, there are discrepancies in the magistracy as to which sections of FACA should be used to ground applications for custody, and will often dismiss applications by social services practitioners telling them that they have brought it under the wrong section, while in other districts, magistrate will allow a similar application under the same section126. The problem persists because magistrates are guided in the interpretation of the FACA by their own discretion or by the Family Court Handbook. There are no rules to the FACA127 regulating procedures in the Family Court and in the Family jurisdiction of the Magistrate Courts , this is a major lacuna in the child protection system that must be addressed. The Magistrate Court and the Family Court are creatures of statute, their procedures must be regulated by statute, indeed, there is no innate discretion in those courts to formulate their own practice and procedure as is the case with the Supreme Court. The Family Court Handbook may be sufficient to guide the administration of the Family Court but it cannot be sufficient to guide the legal practice and procedure to be employed in that court since it does not have the force of law and its contents are unknown to social services practitioners and attorneys-at-law. Magistrates asked to decide cases under the FACA must be aided in that endeavour by adequate rules of procedure to guide the exercise of their discretion, to not do so imposes an unfair and unnecessary strain on the magistracy and prevents the due exercise of law and denies litigants the opportunity to be heard by requiring proceedings to be re-instituted when the parties are already before the court. The situation is exacerbate by the fact that the social services practitioners lack legal training to defend procedural objections brought by attorneys-at-law. 8. Lack of legal aid for foster parents seeking de facto adoptions. The FACA128 provides for persons raising children under de facto adoption for over two years to be allowed to formally adopt those children. Currently, DHS indicates that there are a number of foster parents within the system raising children that have been abandoned for a125 (supra)126 (supra)127 Some rules were drafted in 2002 but these have yet to be assented to and given the force of law.128 Section 144 of the FACA. 73
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S number of years who would want to formally adopt those children but find the cost of adoptions prohibitive. This becomes a problem of vulnerability because those children remain in foster care instead of being allowed to join families that have had long term care of them and who desire to give them a permanent home. For some of these children, the foster family is the only family they have known. In addition, the situation means that resources continue to be diverted to care for and supervise these children when those resources could be diverted to care for other children coming into the system. It is a clear goal of the CRC for children to have permanency in their family relationships, the lack of legal aid to facilitate adoptions of children in long term de facto situations and being cared for by the government prevents this goal from being realized for many children under the care of the government.Child Care Providers : 129INFRASTRUCTUREChild care providers comprise residential institutions utilize by the childprotection system and private foster individuals acting as foster parents. Thereare 4 child care residential institutions in Belize at present. There are some 400children in care. Of this number approximately 100 are housed in institutions.The majority of children in care are living with foster parents. Foster careproviders in Belize utilize their own resources with some assistance given bythe DHS130. There is a social services practitioner assigned to each child infoster care and the DHS maintains files on children in care. Most children incare are under Care Orders from the Family Court. Children come into carebecause of abandonment, neglect or abuse. In most cases children will be incare for an average of one year during which time the department works withfamilies to develop parenting skills in parents and utilizing whatever resources129 Interviews with various foster parents in the Belize District and the rural districts and interviews ofchildren’s homes operators in Belize City and the Cayo District.130 There is a monetary assistance of $60.00 each month and for babies pampers and baby formula isgiven, for older children assistance is given with clothes and school fees and school supplies. 74
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I Sare available to the DHS to strengthen the family so that the child can return tothe family unit.However, there are also children who are permanently in care. For suchchildren the DHS has been given custody and parental rights have been severedby the Family Court. Permanency plans must be made for such children.PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM:Child care providers understand that in many respects they are the backbone ofthe child protection system and the rehabilitation of a person that has come intocare is dependent on a successful family placement. Child care providersperceive that there is an increase in the number of children requiring care andalso an increase in the services required by children coming into care sincemore children are coming into for abuse than in previous times. Child careproviders perceive that they need to be better equipped to deal with suchchildren.ISSUES FACING CHILD CARE PROVIDERS: a) Visits by social services practitioners are not evenly spaced and are not regular enough to maintain a viable relationship with the child. b) There is often little discussion at the onset of care, what plans are being put in place for the complete rehabilitation of children and the time component on those plans so that goals can be evaluated. c) Continuity is not maintained in the lives of children. Child care providers are not equipped with the knowledge of child’s background, history, identity and providing photographs of family etc. d) Child care providers are sometimes not equipped to deal with the particular child, as such might not have been provided they must have basic information on the reason the child is placed in care, orders in place to ensure safety and maintenance of child, special skills nor given specific training that may be needed to help that particular child. 75
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S e) There are no resources to do adequate investigation into the history of child care providers to ensure that there is no risk that they will subject child to further victimization or abuse. This is becoming more important as more first time child care providers are being recruited into the system. f) Inadequate attention is given to the need for medical care for children in care. g) The financial assistance given is not adequate to meet the needs of children in care especially older children. h) Children in care often have no contact with other siblings who may also be in care. i) Regular counseling is not available to children in care. j) The psychological effect of being in care, issues of abandonment by parents and self esteem issues of children in care are not addressed.Community 131Members of the community are depended on to provide assistance to the policein bringing child offenders to justice and to assist the DHS by providingadditional services to children in care. They include citizens, NGO’s,community groups such as churches and volunteer associations.PERCEPTIONS OF THE SYSTEM:Members of the community for the most part perceive the child protection systemas the responsibility of the DHS. The DHS is the most identified and sometimesonly identified agency within the child protection system. Members of thecommunity generally perceive that the child protection system is not doing enoughto protect children from abuse.131 Informal interviews with members of the community in January and February, 2004. 76
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SISSUES FACING THE COMMUNITY: a) Confusion between the role of the police and the role of the DHS in the child protection system. Members of the community display an insufficient knowledge of who are the agencies involved in the child protection system and what are their roles. b) There is unwillingness to participate in the child protection system by giving evidence to corroborate allegations of abuse to children because persons do not want to go to court and be identified as the informant. c) Though persons readily agree that there is a need to report cases of abuses, most persons do not want to make reports as they do not want abusers who are often their acquaintances to know that they made the report. d) Services available for child abuse do not take in the need to provide victim and guardian of victim an alternative means of support if the abuser is the main breadwinner. e) There is cultural acceptance of abuse, especially physical abuse, persons do not know when discipline ends and abuse begins. f) There is a lack of integration between NGO’s and the DHS. g) Cultural and economic factors hinder expunging sexual abuse of teenagers, especially cultural encouragement of early sexual activity and poverty. 77
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Chapter 6RECOMMENDATIONSFrom the interviews done with the stakeholders, agencies andclients of the child protection system areas for improvementhave been identified. Recommendations are now made toimprove these areas. Legislative AmendmentsT he literature review indicated that while great strides have been made by the introduction of the FACA, there is a need to amend that and other legislation which establishes the framework for the child protection system to remove areas of vulnerability within the legal framework of the childprotection. The following legislative amendments are recommended: 23. FACA132 a) Strengthen the sanctions for child pornography . b) Set out the procedure for the enforcement of the crime of publicizing the particulars of children involved in child abuse cases. c) Provide that the Guardian Ad Litem should only be persons that have been trained in social work and who are registered social workers. 24. Families and Children (Protection of Children) Regulations It must be decided whether this act will be repealed or enforced. If the act is to be kept and enforced then the following things must be provided for in the act: b) Proper places to house children.132 There is an urgent need for the draft amendments to the FACA and the Regulations setting outprocedure for its use in the Courts to be enacted. The amendments suggested here have been addressed inthose drafts along with others which are needed to make the intention of the FACA manifest in the courtsystem. 78
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S c) Legislation should provide for persons who will supervise children at places they are housed and the procedure for care and or placement of children picked up on curfew must be legislated. 25. Families and Children (Child Abuse) Reporting Regulations a) The amicus curiae must be mandated to be a social worker. b) Provision should be made for amicus curaie called in civil cases in which social workers from the Department of Human Services are involved to be persons not employed to the Department. c) Define the role and purpose of the amicus curiae more clearly. d) Sanctions must be imposed for the failure to report child abuse. 26. The Inferior Courts Act (procedures establishing the Alcalde jurisdiction) a) Provisions should be made for Alcalde judges to be more closely supervised, they should be required to send copies of minute books to the Chief Justice at set intervals. b) Provisions should be made in the legislation for them to be sensitised to issues surrounding child abuse c) The mandatory reporting requirements must specifically provide for alcades to report cases of abuse brought before them and to supervise or participate in community efforts put together by the Court or the Department of Human Services to deal with child abuse cases. 27. Certified Institutions (Children’s Reformation) Act a) A definition of “child” must be included in the act. b)The act must provide for mandatory counseling of the children as a way to promote behavioural change and as a way to deal with the issues causing the uncontrollable behaviour, d)Other avenues for rehabilitation besides manual labour must be identified, e) The act must define what constitutes uncontrollable behaviour or provide a yardstick against which behaviour can be deemed uncontrollable, f)The act must require parents to seek parental training, g) Provisions requiring parents to contribute to the maintenance of their children while in the institutions must be enforced, h) Provisions should be made to restrict parents from collecting maintenance payments for children in the institution, instead these payments should be sent to the institution. 79
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S i) Provisions should be made in the act that where parents do not commit to parental training and rehabilitation, that the DHS develop permanent placement plans for those children who can be rehabilitated and removed from institutional care, k) Provisions should be made for parents to be consulted on medical decisions and legal decisions concerning their children. Perhaps it is time to repeal this act and replace it with a model mirroring the draft regulations on residential care. 28. Criminal Code a) the age of criminal responsibility is 9 years, this threshold is too low in light of the fact that there is no Guardian Ad Litem to represent their interest and no guaranteed access to legal aid, elsewhere in the Caribbean, the age of criminal responsibility is being agreed at 12. b) the age for obtaining counseling without parental consent should be lowered to 16 to match the age of legal consent. c) indecent assault should be capable of being committed both on females and males and not just females only as at present. d) carnal knowledge is capable of being committed only on girls, the offence should be gender neutral. e) section 47 (3) which exonerates a man from the crime of carnal knowledge if he thought that the child was his wife should be repealed. f) section 62 should also be repealed to remove the confusion of having two different penalties for incest and should be gender neutral. g)sections 49,50,51, 56 and 77 should also be gender neutral so that boys can receive equal protection under the law for procurement and abduction. h) Provisions should be made for sanctions for the failure to provide the necessaries of life under section 100. i) section 12 (b) indicates that the consent of a female in the case of indecent is void if the female is under fourteen, thereby suggesting that her consent is acceptable if she is fourteen. This creates a conflict in the act since the legal age of consent established by the act is 16 years old. Hence fourteen in the section must be amended to 16, the legal age of consent. j) section 55 only prohibits child stealing up to the age of 12, this must be increased to 18 to protect all children. k) section 60 should be amended to protect children above the age of 5 and section 92 amended to protect children above 9 years old in cases of abandonment. 80
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S l)section 31 should be amended to prevent anyone inflicting harm on a child for the purpose of correcting the child to prohibit the abuse of children masquerading as discipline in schools. m) provisions should be made in the criminal code to criminalize the publication of the names and addresses of the children who are the victims in child abuse cases or any other child involved in such cases . n) In every case involving allegation of abuse of a child, the court should make an automatic court order that the Defendant does not come into contact with the complainant or make contact with the complainant or his guardian . o)There should be provision for witness protection in some cases. Currently there are no such programs in place, though it may be costly or traumatic for the child as it may separate him from siblings, it will not be needed in all cases. Such a program should only apply to a child at risk of being hurt because orders for the perpetrator to stay away will not provide adequate protection for the child. p)Provisions must also be put in place to ensure that guardians do not withdraw cases unless that is established to be in the best interest of the child.. One suggestion is to prescribe a sum that a guardian must pay for initiating criminal action and then withdrawing it, that money will go to the fund to be used to pay legal aid to ensure legal representation of the accused. That sum should not exceed $500.00 and should be payable immediately when the court is informed of the decision to withdraw. q) Where guardians of children accept money to discontinue cases that needs to be treated as the criminal act that it is. Under law, the person receiving the money is abetting the crime. They could be prosecuted under that section but this does not serve the purpose, a more comprehensive revision is needed to include a specific offence prohibiting paying or receiving for crimes. 29. The Juvenile Offenders Act a) the act defines child as a person under 16 and a young person as a person between 16 and 18 but does not treat them differently, to be consistent with the rest of the legislation and with other legislation the definition should be a person under 18. b) Section 9 (1) of the act gives a child the right to be heard in the presence of an adult, this should be amended to ensure legal 81
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S representation of the child being heard so that legal issues concerned with him speaking are dealt with. c) Children who are co-accused of crimes and charged with adults should be dealt with separately by the juvenile court and held in camera (s.3 (1) of the act d) The provision in the act to keep juveniles away from adults at the pre-detention stage under s. 11(3) must be enforced in practice. Currently, persons sentenced to a period of detention are housed in the Boot Camp building within the prison complex, there should be a separate facility for such children altogether e) Children deprived of their liberty should have the right to maintain contact with their families 30. Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences) Act a) A provision is needed for legal representation of children. Each child liable to become part of the penal system should have legal representation at those hearings. b) A Provision is needed for the rehabilitation of persons under the Penal System Reform Act to include the provision of counseling as needed. 31. Domestic Violence Act a) legislative amendments are needed to equalize the standard of assistance women who are victims abuse receive from the state to start a new life with that which is provided to women who are victims of trafficking so that they can make proper provision for the children under their care in circumstances where the abuser was the only breadwinner. 32. Marriage Act a) the age of marriage should be increased to 16 to match the age of consent. 33. Married Persons (Protection) Act a) the provision for a ceiling of $50.00 in maintenance applications made under the act should be repealed and the provisions in the FACA substituted. 34. Registration and Births and Deaths Act a) A provision must be included to give an identity to children in care who were not registered and whose parents cannot be found or whose parents refuse to register them 82
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 35. Education Act and Rules a) The provisions prohibiting corporal punishment must be made absolute or penalties imposed for the breach of the existing provision by non-senior members of staff. Excesses in application of corporal punishment must be criminalize by the act. 36. International Child Abduction Act a) protocols to be developed as to how the system set up by the act will work b) the responsibilities and roles of each sector to be delineated c) regulations setting out the procedure under the act must be made. 37. Misuse of Drugs Act a) Alcohol must be classified as a drug and penalties imposed for its sale to children 38. Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act a) Section 6 of the act should be amended in line with the amendment suggested for the Education Act to restrict the use of corporal punishment on children 39. Indictable Procedures Act a) stiffer penalties needed in cases of child abuse 40. Evidence Act a) section 74 and 91 assume that the perpetrator is male, this should be made gender neutral b) provisions are needed for children to give evidence in the absence of perpetrators c) remove requirement for automatic corroboration of child’s evidence by equating cases of child abuse with provisions dealing with sex crimes by bringing section 103 in line with section 92. d) revise age requirement in common law for giving evidence by mandating that the ability to give evidence under oath shall depend only the child’s understanding and appreciation of the obligation to tell the truth. e) children should be allowed to give evidence via videotape etc., and include a provision for the judge to make a decision as to whether the evidence of the child will be taken in this special manner based on evidence or material that the prosecution provides. 83
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S f) In addition, a provision for persons charged with offences against children to be legally represented would prevent a challenge of the legislation on the basis that it denies the accused the constitutional right to be heard. Appointing a person to be a legal representative to represent child abusers specifically may be cheaper than putting attorneys-at-law on a roster system of legal aid. g) The right to take evidence via videotape should be restricted to cases where the prosecution established that the child is in need of special protection . h) For the protection of child witnesses, judges must be given the ability to waive disclosure in some cases e.g. withholding the address of witnesses needing special protection by having the addresses expunged from witness statements sent to the defendants as well as the name. Also judges should be able to delay the delivery of such statements until a month before the beginning of the trial to ensure proper arrangements in place to protect child and to give child every opportunity to open up about the incident. 41. Labour Act a) The act must defines a child b) The minimum age for admission to employment or work should be increased to a level consistent with the fullest physical and mental developmental of a child (the ILO Convention recommends a minimum age of non less than 15 years and 18 years in work considered hazardous c) Section 54 (2) to be amended to provide a sanction where an employer employs a child in a job dangerous to his development d) Section 158 (3) – forced labour, law allows in case of child in an institution under Reform Act or if detained as a result of criminal conviction, this must be regulated to prevent exploitation e) Section 163 to be amended to prevent employment of children in industrial undertakings f) Sanctions for breaching the act to be strengthened and made consistent, s. 161 (2), s. 172 g) Regulations are needed to prescribe the type, hours and conditions of work of children and to widen the role of the labour inspector and to ensure that the act can be enforced - may need to strengthen institutional capacity and to investigate instances of child labour esp. in rural areas. 84
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S 42. Other legislation will need to be draft viz: a) Legislation is needed specifically prohibiting pornography. Pornography should be made an indictable offence as it is done for profit. b) There is also a need to develop proper alternatives to the court system. Alternative Dispute Resolution Tribunals and mediation officers equipped with attorneys-at-law and social workers who are able to guide persons from opposing sides to a common resolution and who are able to advise of the technical areas of law affecting their claim is needed in cases involving family especially where children will be affected by the ruling made. This is a long term recommendation. Policy changesDHS:Short Term: m) Protocol delineating the roles of police and roles of Human Services with clear mandate for them to work together133. n) Protocol to be developed for use of vehicles and gas allowance to deal with the phasing out of manual orders and to prevent delays in getting to children in emergency situations. o) Where there is an overlap of jurisdiction such as in the Benque/Cayo area, there must be cleat delineation of which medical facility is responsible for examinations from which village and which police will do investigations. p) Policy handbook within the department must insist on social workers properly “diarying” care orders so that the date when the care order will expire is noted in worker’s diary so that social workers are mindful of expiration of orders. q) Policies should be set up for night/day call workers, they must be mandated to deal only with emergency care, protecting safety of child and making notation of condition of child brought into care as well as condition and attitude of parents/guardians so133 There is currently a draft in progress. Efforts must be concentrated on bringing this into effect as soonas possible. 85
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S that day workers or investigative team can do follow up. Night/day call workers must explain to child and parent/guardian that someone else will be dealing with the case. At the same time workers on call must ensure that they obtain as much information as possible from persons making report as to who that person is, there connection with child and information available on child. Sometimes, persons want to remain anonymous, workers on call must explain to those persons that if they really want to ensure that the child is protected and the perpetrator convicted, they must assist the investigation b y participating in the process. This information is vital as the investigative team will need to determine if this person will be a biased witness or if the information is valid. r) A determination must be made on validity of calls and an immediate preliminary investigation conducted at time child is removed. The mindset that the fact of a report means that there has been abuse must be discarded. s) Once a case has been opened. The social worker assigned has the responsibility to explain to the child and the family the process that the case will take, they must understand the difference between the criminal process in the magistrate/Supreme Court and the civil process in the Family Court. They must also understand the time line for cases and must understand that the social worker will not be the one eventually working on the case. t) Recommendations of supervisors to social workers in the district must be placed on the file and must be internal disciplinary process for social worker who fails to comply or system established requiring reasons to be given for failure to comply with directives. Too many instances of same directives being given over and over and no follow-up shown on file. u) For Family Support appoint at least two designated suppliers or supermarkets and make advance purchases from suppliers and have them store the goods at the store with an inventory list and an order list. The order list will be completed and counter signed by officers and supermarket officers as needs arise, alternatively vouchers or food coupons could be given to persons in need which could only be redeemed for designated food items and which could not be cashed. If coupons are contained in a booklet, provision had to be made for coupons to be redeemable only on one date per week, coupons had to be post dated with a week between dates to ensure that items are not collected more than needed and sold. 86
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SMedium v) Protocols must provide for the establishment of a support group for foster mothers where they can meet regularly and encourage each other, should try to establish a system of mentorship with new foster mothers so that they are paired with a more experienced foster mother especially when they are raising children with special needs at least for a few months at first. w) Protocols must also provide for the development of a resource base for foster mothers and include them in COMPAR training, where foster mothers are dealing with children with special needs (disability, malnutrition, prolonged or fatal illness) they must be taught coping mechanisms for dealing with these children and the stress these situations can produce. x) There is a growing incidence of disabled children being placed in care. Such children are not suited for institutional care, they do better in small family units where they will have individual attention especially from persons with experience or expertise in dealing with persons with disabilities. Currently, there are persons with expertise with disabled persons teaching at Stella Maris, some of them are fostering or caring for family members with disabilities. Such persons provide a ready pool of persons that should be accessed as foster care providers for disabled children. y) When children are placed in foster care, the department must ensure that the child’s identity has been secured and that foster parents undertake to enroll child in school. z) Department should approach legal aid or other person to provide legal service to facilitate de facto adoptions aa) Utilise the skills of foster parents to train other foster parents and parents in need of parenting classes bb) In addition, the foster parent must be presented with the child’s family history, foster care history and the level of the child’s development must be documented. cc) A care package setting out the goals to be achieve for that child’s development in foster care and setting time limits for attainment of objects and review of case must be developed for every child in foster care to ensure proper life skill training, socialization and academic markers for the child’s age are met. dd) A disciplinary protocol must be developed for all children in institutions and all children in foster care, this must establish acceptable standards of discipline. 87
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S ee) Where there is a recommendation for reconciliation with the parents, long term foster care should not be done as there is a risk that the child will bond with the foster family and not want to be reconciled, best to have a short term foster placement and a long term supervision order once reconciliation has been effected. ff) Case workers must do spot checks without advising guardians/parents so that they can assess the true situation. gg) There must be a system of investigating persons who desire to become foster mothers to include criminal history, child abuse history whether as victim or perpetrator and references should be required in addition to investigating home situation and income. hh) Foster parents must be protected from harassment by parents or other guardians, get a protection order if parent/guardian is hostile at custody/care order hearing. ii) In child protection cases, the DHS protocol must state procedure fro transfer of cases to ease the frustration of having to deal with several different people. The protocols must requite that the person to take over from the investigative team etc, must be brought in before the time of transfer so that the family and child can meet with them and bonding can take place. That officer to take over must apprise himself or herself of the case history so that persons will not need to recount details already given. jj) Protocols must also require the social worker must prepare family and child for the time when the social worker will no longer be there to hold their hand by connecting them to local support systems in the community and should make provision for a follow up visit within 6 months of closing the case to see how family is doing. May also be possible to use persons who have already been through the system to provide support groups for persons going through the process and social worker should seek out whether such persons would be available as part of a support group when they are closing cases so that they can have a database of support persons, include churches, NGO’s and other community based groups in this support system. kk) Standardization of the needs assessment for family support with the different agencies so that the referral agencies are aware of what the dept. can do and what it cannot do as well as the qualifications for assistance 88
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SLong Term: ll) Policies must be established for evacuation or protection of children in government institutional care and in foster care in the event of natural disaster. Persons operating private institutions should be require to develop and present to Human Services, emergency protection plan for children. These institutions must be checked routinely for fire safety and disaster preparedness. mm) The social assistance program must be reviewed with a view to assisting persons to become self earning where that is possible. Skills of persons on assistance must be identified and opportunities for training and entrepreneurial activity identified and encouraged. Only the indigent, elderly and persons unable to work because of disability should be on long term social assistance. nn) Closer links must be established with referral agencies to access other kinds of aid and services that the dept. does no offer or where the services that DHS offers is insufficient. oo) Must develop a protocol for dealing with children who are disabled, their social, educational and child care needs are not being met, especially in the districts. pp) In cases where the breadwinner is the perpetrator, provision must be made similar to that for domestic violence to rehabilitate family by providing alternative place of refuge, skills training and immediate temporary income support to encourage them to pursue prosecutions and as a back up to provisions requiring guardians/parents to pay for withdrawing cases. qq) The Dept should institute a certification system for social workers to be licensed GAL rr) The Ministry should do a registration and maintain the Register of Guardian Ad Litems ss) The GAL report to be standardize to state the items that should be included in it and a form placed in the FACA Regulations tt) GAL report to include a little of the background as to the circumstances in which the child was given up uu) All intake forms and materials for adoptions should include a request for the social security numbers of all parties and this should become a part of the Home study so that persons can be traced with the social security numbers in cases when they may have moved. 89
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SPolice:Short Term: vv) A written protocol is needed for the police department on dealing with crime scenes and the protection of evidence especially for the purpose of forensic analysis, this should include provisions setting out the requirement to preserve the clothes of the victim to preserve evidence of semen etc, thereon and make provisions for injuries to be photographed. ww) Police working in the Domestic Violence Unit who accompany children to hospital should not wear uniforms to protect confidentially of children especially in the villages, they may need a badge or Id instead.Medium: xx) Domestic violence unit to be staffed by police with previous experience in the unit so that if there is a need for transfer only should be placed at other station to work in DVU and be replaced by another officer from another DVU. yy) Police need a written procedure manual on how to care for children that are abused within the department or children who commit crimes, where they are to be housed etc. to be set out.Medical:Short Term: zz) A written medical protocol is needed dealing with cases of suspected child abuse. aaa) Protocol to be developed for the procedure on medical examinations so that the process is standardize, must cover what constitutes evidence of broken hymen etc. and must establish and use child abuse kits in sexual abuse cases (use the rape kit as a precedent) bbb) A protocol is needed for the access of child victims to medical care when there is a report of abuse. It must provide for the children to be examined in a private room or children’s wing of the clinic or hospital doing the exam especially in the districts where keeping such issues confidential is a greater challenge. ccc) The protocol must also provide the medical practitioner doing the examination to order blood tests, swabs etc, when there is proof of penetration and it must provide for doctors to explain to child what the medical examination will entail before the examination is done. 90
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S ddd) There must be insistence on the mandatory reporting requirements in private hospitals and clinics in the towns and villages. eee) Where hospital requires child to meet with counselor or psychiatric nurse when medical examinations are done, this person must do the follow up counseling as well. Human Services should arrange for this and should request reports from counselors and discuss goals of counseling so that these can be documented on case files.Medium: fff) HECOPAB should be utilized to provide sensitization training for doctors and nurses who will deal with children who are abused. ggg) Data collection of child abuse cases by the medical department similar to one for domestic violence hhh) Provision of English speaking doctor on call at all times or an English speaking support doctor when the main doctor’s main language is an expatriate. Alternatively, the establishment or appointment of particular doctors in each district to do medical examinations in child abuse cases and require such doctors to be bi-lingual or provide for two doctors one speaking English and the other Spanish.Legal:Short Term: iii) A protocol for the magistrates as there is currently discordance between the orders made by various magistrates as different magistrates seem to require different things to be proved, this creates uncertainty. In addition, the provisions of the handbook with regards to administration of the Family Court must be followed in other districts when they operate as Family Courts. jjj) Rules of procedure for the FACA are needed. kkk) Private process servers to be utilized where police are perpetrator of abuse. lll) The requirement to report convictions of sex offenders to Human Services must be insisted on and a registry kept of these perpetrators for monitoring to prevent repeat offences.Medium: 91
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S mmm) The medico legal form needs to be revised to include classification for sexual abuse and to allow doctors to give details on findings of evidence of abuse. nnn) Where persons have been charged with offences against children are foreigners, any decision to grant bail must include assessment of flight risk and measures taken to warn borders to prevent flight risk. ooo) Child to meet with prosecutor well in advance of hearing and family to be advised of date of hearing well in advance, social worker must prepare child for giving evidence in court and must ensure that child is prepared by prosecutor for the court process. ppp) In cases where the DPP decides not to prosecute cases, the prosecutor should be required to meet with the family and explain why the case will not be proceeded with and what legal alternatives are available for pursuing civil cases for assault and battery to recover some income for child’s care. qqq) Where alternative legal processes ex. Civil cases for assault and battery should be discussed by prosecutor as part of legal options available to family, provision should be made for any proceeds to be held on trust for child.Long Term: rrr) The Supreme Court Registry’s an adoption register should contain information as to the biological parents of the adopted child. This register should only be accessible to the child or biological parents or siblings of the child. The process of access should involve the registry sending a letter to the person to be contacted informing them of the desire of the other person to contact them and finding out if the want to be contacted, if they want to be contacted then the registry gives the contact information to the person requesting it, if not then the registry cannot release the information. 92
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Public EducationShort Term: a) Continuous education is needed in the school system on what child abuse is and the symptoms of abuse must be done in schools and institutions housing children. b) Education on the role of the Department of Human Services vs role of Police c) Education on the criminal process in the Magistrate Court as opposed to the civil process undertaken in the Family Court in cases of abuse.Medium: d) Teenagers and young persons need comprehensive program on moral development, sex education dealing with their worth as individuals and the benefits of delaying sexual activity until marriage e) Education on the need to receive counseling and its benefits in breaking the cycle of abuse. This should be presented to children within the school system to encourage them to come forward to report abuse to school counselors etc. f) Education on need for adults who were abused as children to seek counseling. g) Education is needed to encourage reporting and to encourage teachers’ participation as witnesses and to sensitize them on the outcome of cases, keep them updated on cases TrainingShort Term: a)Legal training of magistrates is needed. That program is already 93
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S under way with some of the magistrates already receiving legal training. Government should continue to send them for training and bond them to come back and work as magistrates. c) D.P.P. office also needs sensitization training – basic areas of social work and vice versa. d) The police must be trained on investigative techniques in cases involving abuse where there may be young child victims whose evidence will need corroboration. e) Police also need training in taking statements from children and other special victims and need sensitization training in dealing with special victims before they are placed in Domestic Violence Unit. e) Police need training in giving evidence in court especially forensic evidence of identity etc.,Medium: f) Training social services practitioners in the districts on proper office management and case management techniques. g) Police dealing with child abuse cases must be trained on provisions of FACA, the Criminal Code, the Evidence Act and the Criminal Justice Act. h) Police must receive training on how to deal with persons who are mentally disabled.Long Term: i) There is also a need to ensure civilian prosecutors are properly trained in evidentiary rules and procedures. Ultimately all prosecutors whether in Magistrate Court or in the Supreme Court should be attorneys-at-law. j) Doctors need to be trained on how to classify injuries as per the Medico-legal form, this training must be done every 6 months or so to keep knowledge current and ensure that new doctors coming into the system understand these classifications. 94
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S ResourcesShort Term: a) The DHS requires at least two social workers in each districts to ensure that all investigations and proper follow up is done. b)There is a need for vehicles attached to the rural offices of the DHS that can sit at least three people (driver, social worker and child to be removed) and that can traverse rugged terrain c) better system of stationery allocation especially for the villages to ensure that orders are in the new system so that stationery can arrive on time. They may need to be able to fill their own orders or get stationery from Belmopan. There were reports of officers in two offices not being able to submit reports on time because of delays in getting stationery.Medium: e) The data base already existing should be developed and complemented by efficient filing systems in each district including provisions for: 1) record of cases transferred to Belize City 2) original of cases transferred to remain in district 3) proper delineation of who bears ultimate responsibility when cases are transferred 4) where there are no care orders, officers must get a written consent from parents before proceeding with voluntary supervision. That voluntary supervision must have clear objectives, a definite start and a definite end including provision for assessment to see if objectives met. 5) intake forms to be reviewed monthly. 6) utilize 6th from students or social workers on day off to enter backlog into data base, must have an up to date report of cases especially from the districts outside the Belize district. 7) Case transcripts must be obtained and copied to clients, they must know at all times, what orders are being made in respect of their children except where parental rights have been removed. 8) There must be a current order in place for all children in care and these orders must be on the file and be 95
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S consistent with the recommendations to reconcile or institutionalize or foster place child. i) The on-line system of payments must include funds for providing food for a child in cases where a child has to be placed in emergency foster care. j) Resources must be identified in the community/churches for sustaining families while they are in training k) Need sketch artist as part of police forensic team. l) Need more counselors/psychiatrist attached to Counseling Centre. m) Facilities to encourage Interpol checking of prospective adoptive parents Structural AdjustmentsShort Term: a) enclosed areas for taking statements of victims at police stations. b) private offices in Stann Creek district for the officer dealing with child protection and who has to interview families and children.Medium: c) places/homes in each district to be built or families identified that will house children in emergency situations so that when children in the districts have to be removed from their homes they are not taken to Belize City. Children must undergo minimum displacement without suffering additional trauma of being uprooted from community, friends and school. This is also counter-productive in cases where a reconciliation with parent is recommended and parent has to visit child as coming to Belize City may mean disrupting parent’s work etc. d) each Human Services office whether in city or in the village must have a child play area where children can be supervised at play while the social worker is discussing sensitive aspect of cases with the guardian or parent which children don’t need to be a part of. 96
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SLon g Term: e) The Dorothy Menzies Child Care Center needs to be re- assessed, the rooms are over-crowded, they are poorly lit and poorly ventilated, there is inadequate privacy for children, children are not being taught life-skills, there is poor development of disabled children placed there as there is inadequate staff to give them the personal care and attention they need. Efforts should be made to place all disabled children at the Center into foster care to prevent further victimization, including assistance with their medical needs. 97
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Appendix A Research Instruments The following are samples of the interview instruments employed in the project: Interview Guide For Service Providers Health Sector(Introduction of interviewer, explanation of the objectives of the study and theobtaining of the interviewee’s consent must be done before the interviewproceeds. The interviewee name should be noted as well as their position andjob title, a short description of their duties, the name and location of theinstitution where the interview is done and the date of the interview)Work performed by the IntervieweeWhat does your work as___________________________consist of? (position)What percentage of the patients you see are children? What are the mostfrequent reasons given for bringing children to your office/emergency room?Are cases of child abuse seen? What are the most common causes?Do you (or your colleagues) routinely ask questions to determine whether thepatient might be a victim of child abuse?What tests or examinations do you routinely perform when there is anallegation that c child that is brought in for treatment is the victim if childabuse? How do you decide which tests to perform?What is the procedure for obtaining an official report from the medicalexaminer?How many people with this type of problem does your institution serve permonth? Do you have a way of keeping records on cases? Is there a form andprocedure for recording them? Can you explain it to me? 98
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SRequest a copy of the record form, referral slips, and any other documentsthat may exist.Do you (or your colleagues) provide follow-up care to children who have beenvictims of family violence? Are there mechanisms for referring them to otherinstitutions? Do you think the record-keeping system is adequate to identifychildren affected by child abuse, refer them to the appropriate services, andprovide timely follow-up.Experience with children who have been abused.Have you ever come into contact with cases of child abuse?Can you tell me how these experiences originated, what you did, and what theaffected person did?Inquire about all possible cases, specifying what was done or not done, suchas:  Contacts identified  Reactions of persons involved  Referrals to other institutions  Follow-up  Outcome, and  Response of the personDo you know of other organizations or persons in this community who work onchild abuse issues? Who are they? What is your relationship with them? Isthere inter-sectoral coordination (with other institutions) to address the needs ofabused children.What changes in legislation, policy, or staffing would facilitate your work.Social perception of child abuse violence and of the children affected by it.Do you believe that child abuse is a common problem in this community?How is it most frequently manifested in this community? In this country?What are the reasons and causes for child abuse? 99
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SDo you believe that something should be done with respect to child abuse?What would be the best way of preventing or reducing child abuse in thiscommunity? What are the obstacles to achieving this? What could be done inorder to improve the response of the health sector in cases of children who havebeen abused?What should…..do to deal with his situation?Ask about each of the following situations:  a child physically abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child physically abused by another child  a child sexually abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child sexually abused by another child  a child abused by a teacher or other person in authority There are cases where children want to stay with parents or caregivers who are abusing them. Why is that? There are cases of children who have been sexually or physically abused but who don’t say anything to anyone. Why is that? There are cases where parents or other caregivers know that their children are being abused but do not report it. Why is that? There are cases where children are emotionally and psychologically abused but no reports are made. Why is that? 100
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Interview Guide For Service Providers Legal/Judicial/Law Enforcement Sector(Introduction of interviewer, explanation of the objectives of the study and theobtaining of the interviewee’s consent must be done before the interviewproceeds. The interviewee name should be noted as well as their position andjob title, a short description of their duties, the name and location of theinstitution where the interview is done and the date of the interview)Work performed by the IntervieweeWhat does your work as___________________________consist of? (position)What type of service do you and your institution offer for children affected byviolence?What procedure should a person who wants to report a case of child abusefollow?How many different persons does someone have to see to report a case? Arethey male or female? Where is the report taken? Who takes it? Does the childhave to different places or buildings? How much time does the person have towait at each step? Is priority given to children who have been physically orsexually abused?Who decides whether an examination should be administered? What type ofexaminations are performed?In court trials for this type of violence do physicians testify as expertwitnesses? If yes: Who is authorized to give evidence in court as medical expert in cases of child abuse? Are health workers ever unwilling to testify in court? Is the testimony of health workers sought. 101
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SHow many people with this type of problem does your institution serve permonth? Do you have a way of keeping records on cases? Is there a form andprocedure for recording them? Can you explain it to me?Request a copy of the record form, referral slips, and any other documentsthat may exist.Are specialized medical examiners available? How many? Are they male orfemale? What is their training? Do they work weekends? At night?What is the legal importance of a physician’s report on a child who is beaten orinjured by a family member? What importance does the system attach to thesereports?Experience with children who have been abused.Have you ever come into contact with cases of child abuse?Can you tell me how these experiences originated, what you did, and what theaffected person did?Inquire about all possible cases, specifying what was done or not done, suchas:  Contacts identified  Reactions of persons involved  Referrals to other institutions  Follow-up  Outcome, and  Response of the personDo you know of other organizations or persons in this community who work onchild abuse issues? Who are they? What is your relationship with them? Isthere inter-sectoral coordination (with other institutions) to address the needs ofabused children.What changes in legislation, policy, or staffing would facilitate your work.Social perception of child abuse violence and of the children affected by it. 102
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SDo you believe that child abuse is a common problem in this community?How is it most frequently manifested in this community? In this country?What are the reasons and causes for child abuse? Do you believe that something should be done with respect to child abuse? What would be the best way of preventing or reducing child abuse in this community? What are the obstacles to achieving this? What could be done in order to improve the response of the Legal/Judicial/Law Enforcement Sector in cases of children who have been abused?What should…..do to deal with his situation?Ask about each of the following situations:  a child physically abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child physically abused by another child  a child sexually abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child sexually abused by another child  a child abused by a teacher or other person in authority There are cases where children want to stay with parents or caregivers who are abusing them. Why is that? There are cases of children who have been sexually or physically abused but who don’t say anything to anyone. Why is that? There are cases where parents or other caregivers know that their children are being abused but do not report it. Why is that? There are cases where children are emotionally and psychologically abused but no reports are made. Why is that? 103
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Interview Guide For Service Providers Education Sector(Introduction of interviewer, explanation of the objectives of the study and theobtaining of the interviewee’s consent must be done before the interviewproceeds. The interviewee name should be noted as well as their position andjob title, a short description of their duties, the name and location of theinstitution where the interview is done and the date of the interview)Work performed by the IntervieweeWhat does your work as___________________________consist of? (position)Experience with children who have been abused.Have you ever come into contact with cases of child abuse?Can you tell me how these experiences originated, what actions you took, andwhat the affected person did? For each case that is mentioned, ask about contacts, reactions referrals to other institutions, follow-up, and outcomes. Ask about other cases.How many people with this type of problem does your institution serve permonth? Do you have a way of keeping records on cases? Is there a form andprocedure for recording them?If yes: Can you explain it to me? (Request a copy of the record form, referralslips, and any other documents that may exist)If no: AskDo you know of other organisations or people in this community who work onchild abuse issues? Who are they? What is your relationship with them?Social perception of family violence and of the women affected by it.Do you believe that child abuse is a common problem in this community? 104
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SHow is it most frequently manifested in this community? In this country?What are the reasons and causes for child abuse?Do you believe that something should be done with respect to child abuse?What would be the best way of preventing or reducing child abuse in thiscommunity? What are the obstacles to achieving this?Do you believe that the education sector can play a role in the solution of thisproblem?If yes: How?If no: Why not?What should…..do to deal with his situation?Ask about each of the following situations:  a child physically abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child physically abused by another child  a child sexually abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child sexually abused by another child  a child abused by a teacher or other person in authority There are cases where children want to stay with parents or caregivers who are abusing them. Why is that? There are cases of children who have been sexually or physically abused but who don’t say anything to anyone. Why is that? There are cases where parents or other caregivers know that their children are being abused but do not report it. Why is that? There are cases where children are emotionally and psychologically abused but no reports are made. Why is that? 105
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Interview Guide For Service Providers Community/NGO Sector(Introduction of interviewer, explanation of the objectives of the study and theobtaining of the interviewee’s consent must be done before the interviewproceeds. The interviewee name should be noted as well as their position andjob title, a short description of their duties, the name and location of theinstitution where the interview is done and the date of the interview)Work performed by the IntervieweeWhat does your work as___________________________consist of? (position)What type of service do you and your institution offer for children affected byviolence?Experience with children who have been abused.Have you ever been involved in providing services for or supporting a childwho has been abused?Have you ever had to become involved in cases of child abuse?Can you tell me how these experiences originated, what actions you took, andwhat the affected person did? For each case that is mentioned, ask about contacts, reactions referrals to other institutions, follow-up, and outcomes. Ask about other cases.How many people with this type of problem does your institution serve permonth? Do you have a way of keeping records on cases? Is there a form andprocedure for recording them?If yes: Can you explain it to me? (Request a copy of the record form, referralslips, and any other documents that may exist)If no: Ask :Do you know of other organisations or people in this community who work onchild abuse issues? Who are they? What is your relationship with them? 106
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SDo you know of the existence of laws that protect children affected by abuse?Do you believe that they do protect them?Ask the interviewee to explain his/her answer of “yes” or “no”Social perception of family violence and of the women affected by it.Do you believe that child abuse is a common problem in this community?How is it most frequently manifested in this community? In this country?What are the reasons and causes for child abuse?Do you believe that something should be done with respect to child abuse?What would be the best way of preventing or reducing child abuse in thiscommunity? What are the obstacles to achieving this?What should….do to deal with her situation?Ask about each of the following situations:  a child physically abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child physically abused by another child  a child sexually abused by a parent or close adult relative  a child sexually abused by another child  a child abused by a teacher or other person in authority There are cases where children want to stay with parents or caregivers who are abusing them. Why is that? There are cases of children who have been sexually or physically abused but who don’t say anything to anyone. Why is that? There are cases where parents or other caregivers know that their children are being abused but do not report it. Why is that? There are cases where children are emotionally and psychologically abused but no reports are made. Why is that? 107
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S Interview Guide Random sample interviews of persons in or who have experienced the system(Introduction of interviewer, explanation of the objectives of the study and theobtaining of the interviewee’s consent must be done before the interviewproceeds. The interviewee name should be noted as well as their position andjob title, a short description of their duties, the name and location of theinstitution where the interview is done and the date of the interview)Sociodemographic characteristics of the interviewee a) age b) marital status c) schooling d) children e) place of residence f) occupation of parents/caregivers g) Sociodemographic status h) Language (s)Can you tell me about the violent situation that caused you to access thesystem? Ask when the violence occurred and what type of violence the interviewee has experienced.Did you tell someone about the violent situation immediately? Whom did youtell? What did that person say? If not, why did you wait to tell someone?What made you decide to seek assistance? Ask about perceptions, information, decisions, support.Where did you go first to seek assistance? Who told you to go there? Who didyou see there? What did they say to you? How did they treat you? How did youfee? Did anyone go with you?Did you go elsewhere afterwards? Repeat the questions for any other place the interviewee has gone.Specific questions if the respondent went to health sector? 108
    • V U L N E R A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I SWhom did you see? What type of care were you given? Did they perform anykind of medical examination? Who performed the examination? What were youtold? How did they treat you (child)? Did they refer you elsewhere?Specific questions if the respondent went to legal or law enforcementsector?Whom did you see? What was the procedure like? What did they say to you?How did they treat you? Did they refer you elsewhere?Specific questions if the respondent went to education services(particularly persons in school where the school made mandatory reportor intervened in other way)?With did you see? What was the procedure like? What did they say to you?How did they treat you? Did they refer you elsewhere?Specific questions if the respondent went to the community/NGO sector?With did you see? What was the procedure like? What did they say to you?How did they treat you? Did they refer you elsewhere?What should be changed in the judicial, law enforcement; education; healthand community/NGO systems to better serve people affected by child abuse.What was the outcome of your search for assistance? Did you succeed instopping the violence? How?What was the most important support you received? 109
    • Appendix B Service Providers within the DHS The major service areas within the Department of Human Services are the CPS, CPSS and FSS. Their major responsibilities are: CPS 1. Investigation of abuse, abandonment, neglect, exploitation of children 2. Trafficking 3. Disaster relief 4. Case management 5. Attendance in court 6. Advocacy 7. Independent custody reports 8. Monitor children in care 9. Develop permanency plan for children in care 10. Networking care for children 11. Counseling 12. Research, planning, policy formation and advocacy for families and children 13. Coordination with NCFC, other government ministries/agencies, NGO’s and coordination with the Judiciary 14. Public education and awareness as to issues related to families and children CPSS1. Foster care2. Adoption3. Independent Custody Services4. International Casework 110
    • FSS 1. Financial assistance to families in need (one-time or on-going) 2. Networking care and resources to families 3. Disaster relief 4. Job placements 5. Social Assistance ($5 per week with no income - welfare system) In the Belize Districts, different teams are assigned responsibilities under these various service areas and the specialization within the department along the lines of the three main service areas. In the Districts, the Community Development Officer (CDO) is responsible for all three areas. The DHS is also responsible for the management of three social welfare institutions : 1. Dorothy Menzies Child-Care Center (children’s home) 2. Golden Haven Rest Home (elderly care) 3. Good Samaritan (Homeless Shelter) Under its disaster relief services the DHS is responsible for: 1. Food Distribution 2. Procurement, control, warehousing of food, emergency material, water 3. Psycho-social (referral service for counseling) 4. Rapid Assessment of Population (within 24 hours)In addition, the DHS is responsible for COMPAR offering the following services to thepublic: 1. Community and Parenting Training 2. Workshop in schools 3. Facilitate counseling of couples, parents, children 4. Training of COMPAR trainers 5. Educational Publications 6. Hurricane preparedness 111
    • AcronymsCSO Central Statistical OfficeCDO Community Development OfficerCRD Community Rehabilitation DepartmentCRO Community Rehabilitation OfficerCOMPAR Community and Parent Empowerment ProjectDHS Department of Human ServicesGOB Government of BelizeHECOPAB Health Education and Community Participation BureauMCH Maternal and Child HealthNCFC National Committee for Families and ChildrenNGO Non-Governmental OrganisationNOPCAN National Organisation for the Prevention of Child AbusePAHO Pan-American Health OrganisationUNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund 112
    • Primary References1. Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 20002. CSO 19993. Shrader and Sagot, (2000) Domestic Violence: Women’s Way Out, PAHO4. NHDAC (2000) From Boys to Men5. GOB/ NWC (1997) From Girls to Women6. National Human Development Advisory Committee/UNDP 1998, National Human Development Report.7. UNICEF 2001, The Right to a Future 2000: A Situational Analysis of Children in Belize.8. Surridge/Vernon 1999, Belize Educational Sector Social Strategy.9. Department of Human Services, Child Care statistics, 200210. National Organisation for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2002, Annual Report.11. GOB (1998), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child12. GOB (2002) , United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (draft), Second Report.13. Ministry of Human Development, Local Government and Labour (2002), Procedures Manual for the Department of Human Services.14. Ministry of Human Development, Local Government and Labour (2001), National Gender Policy.15. Ministry of Human Development, Local Government and Labour 2004, Child Protection Protocols, (draft).16. Police 2002, Child Protection 2002: Report of cases between the Police and The Department of Human Services, (Belize City). 113