Parents guide to the child protection system

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Parents guide to the child protection system

  1. 1.      APARENT’SGUIDE TOTHE CHILDPROTECTIONSYSTEM
  2. 2. © National Committee for Families and ChildrenNovember 2005Contributors:Starla Acosta, Judith Alpuche, Aimee Jex, Ava Pennill andStephanie YoungResources:Families and Children’s Act 2000, Department of HumanServices Policy and Procedure Manual, The Conventionon the Rights of the ChildPhotos: Starla Acosta, Cesar VillarWith the support of
  3. 3. iTABLE OF CONTENTSINTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................ iiiCHAPTER 1: PLEASE STOP… STOP HURTING ME!!What is Child Abuse?..............................................................................................................1Signs that tell your child is been abused or neglected.............................................................4What can I do to prevent child abuse? .....................................................................................6Why did my child not tell me about the abuse? ......................................................................8Why did he/she abuse my child?.............................................................................................9The impact of child abuse on the child, parents and family. .................................................11CHAPTER 2: HELP IS ON THE WAY.What is the Child Protection System?...................................................................................14Which agencies make up the Child Protection System? .......................................................15CHAPTER 3: KNOCK, KNOCK….DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICESWhat is the Department of Human Services?........................................................................20How did DHS get a report about my child? ..........................................................................21Why did the DHS get involved with my family? ..................................................................24What type of investigation will the DHS conduct? ...............................................................25What are Court Orders?.........................................................................................29CHAPTER 4: WHERE IS MY CHILD GOING?What is “substitute care”? .....................................................................................................30Do I give the agency any information about my child?.........................................................32CHAPTER 5: WHAT PLANS DO THEY HAVE FOR MY CHILD?What is a “permanency plan”? ..............................................................................................33What are the types of permanency plans? .............................................................................34When will the case be closed?...............................................................................................36CHAPTER 6: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?What happens to the perpetrator of the abuse?...........................................................37How do I support my child?.......................................................................................38Who else can help?...................................................................................................41
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  5. 5. iiiPurpose of the GuideAs a parent, guardian, or concerned member of the community, youmay find that it becomes very difficult when situations of abuse andneglect take place within your home. You may feel lost, and at timesyou may even give up hope, especially when you cannot understand thesystem that you have come in contact with.This guide will:♦ Introduce you to the world of child abuse and neglect,♦ Help you to identify signs and symptoms and what to look forwhen a child is being abused,♦ Highlight tips for preventing child abuse and neglect.It will also help you to answer the many questions you may have as aparent or guardian regarding:♦ The child protection system and what it can do for you and yourchild,♦ The people you will meet and work with while in the childprotection system,♦ Your rights and responsibilities,♦ Other organizations that can help you and your family.Remember, this guide alone cannot solve all your problems or answer allyour questions. Let this guide become your companion as you enter theChild Protection System.INTRODUCTION
  6. 6. iv
  7. 7. 1CHAPTER 1Child abuse occurs when a person either does something or, neglectsto do something that brings harm to a child, especially if the action wasdone on purpose or if the person responsible should have known thattheir behavior would cause harm. Child abuse occurs in differentways. However, abuse and neglect, in any form, place the child’sphysical, intellectual, emotional and social growth and development inserious danger.There are four main types of abuse:1. Physical Abuse2. Sexual Abuse3. Psychological Abuse4. NeglectPhysical Abuse is any physical injury to a child which is notaccidental and is intended to cause pain, injury or other physicalsuffering or harm. Physical abuse may include severe beating,pinching, burning, shaking, or any other acts that may result in brokenbones, bruises and other marks on the body.What is Child Abuse?PLEASE STOP….STOP HURTING ME!!
  8. 8. 2Sexual Abuse occurs when a child is involved in any sexual activitywith another person. It includes fondling a child’s private and sexualparts, or making the child fondle the abuser’s private and sexual parts,sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral sex or any other activity of a sexualnature.Exploitation of a child is another form of abuse. Exploitation refersto the use of a child for work or other activities which harms the childand benefits others. This includes child labour and child pornographyand prostitution.Psychological Abuse - also known as emotional abuse , verbalabuse or mental abuse is when children are constantly put-down, callednames or criticized so that they lose confidence in themselves. Severeforms of psychological abuse include extreme forms of punishmentlike locking the child in a closet for long periods or terrorizing thechild.Neglect is the failure of the parent or caregiver to provide for thechild’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional.Physical neglect can include not providing safe shelter, adequate foodor clothing, appropriate medical care or supervision to the child. It canalso include abandonment of the child. Educational neglect includes
  9. 9. 3failure to provide adequate schooling or special educational needs,assistance with homework or school books, or allowing the child to beexcessively absent from school. Psychological neglect involves notattending to the child’s emotional needs, not showing love and supporttoward the child.Some types of abuse are easier to identify than others. A childof any age, sex, religion and socio-economic background can fallvictim to abuse and neglect. As adults in the society, it is ourresponsibility to ensure that all children are being protected.
  10. 10. 4Have you ever wondered why your child has become unusuallyquiet or very violent?Do you ever notice how that little boy or girl stays alone duringrecess?These may be signs of child abuse, but do not think that one sign cansignal abuse. It is better to stay alert and to recognize all changes inyour child’s behavior. Here are a few signs to help you look forsexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect of your child.Sexual Abuse• Has difficulty walking or sitting• Experiences nightmares and bedwetting• Is very knowledgeable about sex• Displays inappropriate sexual behavior• Runs away from home frequently• Is very scared of adults• Does not mingle with friends at school• Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adultIs my child being abused or neglected?
  11. 11. 5Physical Abuse• Has unexplained burns,bites, bruises, brokenbones, or black eyes• Does not like going homeand fears parents• Is scared of being aroundadults or a particular personNeglect• Is frequently absent from school• Begs or steals money or food• Is usually untidy or dirty and has severe body odor• Persistent health problems• Lacks proper clothing for the weather• States that there is no one at home to provide care.• Frequently wanders the streetsEmotional Abuse• Is extremely passiveor extremely aggres-sive• Is delayed in physicalor emotionaldevelopment• Has attemptedsuicide• Shows no sign ofattachment to parents• Behaves younger thanhis/her age or displaysadult-like behavior
  12. 12. 6To prevent child abuse, you can follow 8 guidelines.1. Learn the facts and understand the risksThe only way to know if a child is being abused is to learn aboutabuse. Most victims are close to and even trust the people whoabuse them, and many children are related to their abuser. Mostchild victims never report the abuse because they are afraid. Manychildren are abused by older or larger children.2. Minimize OpportunityYou could minimize the opportunity of your child being abused bymaking sure that your child is not left alone with one person, evenif it is someone you trust. You should know where your child is atall times and be sure that your child is with someone that you trust.3. Talk about itLearn to talk with your child about abuse. If you are comfortabletalking with your child, then he/she will feel comfortable enough totell you if anyone wants to take advantage of him/her. You shouldteach your child about “good touch” and “bad touch” from anearly age.4. Be AlertBe alert to signs of child abuse, to notice sudden changes in yourchild’s behavior, or physical signs of abuse.5. Make a PlanHow would you react if you found out that your child was abused?What can I do to prevent child abuse?
  13. 13. 7Think about it. You should make a plan of how you would react,and remember to remain calm, listen to what your child has to say,believe your child and protect your child from further harm.6. Act on SuspicionIf you suspect that a child is being abused, report it to the Police orDepartment of Human Services at 0-800-77638 or 227-2057. Trustyour instincts.7. Get InvolvedBecome involved in your child’s life by knowing who his/herfriends are. Encourage group activities and supervise as much asyou can. You can also donate your time and resources to anti-abuse organizations such as the Department of Human Services orNOPCAN.8. Allow Your Child to Exercise His/Her RightsYour child has the right to express his/her opinion andfeelings, and to have those feelings taken into account whendecisions are being made that affect your child. Children who arelistened to and who feel that their opinions are valued are morelikely to report abuse. Let your child know that he/she isbeing heard and teach your child to share his or her opinions andfeelings in a respectful way.
  14. 14. 8As a parent, this is often the first question that you ask, mainly because youmay feel scared as you wonder why your child did not say something toyou about the abuse.Child abuse, especially, sexual abuse is very difficult for achild to discuss with anyone!!The abuser is usually someone close to your child, and this makes it verydifficult for your child to talk about the abuse because the abuser oftenthreatens your child not to tell, or makes the child feel responsible for theabuse. In other cases, your child may be too young and does not have theability to say what is happening to him/her. If your child has a disability,this makes him/her even more vulnerable to abuse.Your child might not know that he/she is being abused because he/she is notaware that certain actions are wrong. It is important that you speak to yourchild about inappropriate behaviours. In other instances, your child mayhave been bribed by the abuser and told that the abuse is actually somethinggood. This happens especially in cases where a child feels unloved at homeand believes the abuse is a form of affection that he/she is yearning for.Why did my child not tell me about the abuse?
  15. 15. 9This question has been asked by nearly every parent whose child has beenabused. We all want to know why a person would do such a thing to achild, especially if that person is a parent or close relative or friend. It isimportant to understand that abuse, especially sexual abuse, is anAdults who are more powerful may find it easy to do as they please with achild. Abuse of a child may occur as a result of excessive punishment.Parents have a responsibility to discipline their children, and punishmentmay be a part of discipline. However, punishment should NEVER lead tothe abuse of a child. The reality is that any action that causes suffering orharm to a child is abuse.Why did he/she abuse my child?Your child has the right to be heard!LISTEN to your child.He or She may be trying to tell yousomething.
  16. 16. 10Parents may abuse children because they lack appropriate parenting skills,or as a result of drug and alcohol problems, marital problems, or domesticviolence. For some adults, abuse was a part of their childhood experi-ence, and they pass on the same negative experience to their children.It is very important to talk withyour child about abuse.Teach your child about“good touch” and “bad touch.”
  17. 17. 11What is the impact of child abuse?A child cannot understand howThe impact of abuse on a child varies depending on the circumstances ofthe abuse or neglect, and the child’s environment. However, abuse in anyform causes emotional harm to the child. Your child can develop healthproblems as a result of the abuse. Stress often arises as a result of abuse.This stress may impact your child’s eating and sleeping habits and evenschool performance. Such stress can also lead to psychological problems,including depression and in some cases, it can even lead your child to bringharm to him/herself or to others.Your child may live in constant fear of anticipated abuse and the abuser.This constant fear can cause your child to withdraw from being around oth-ers or even getting involved in new activities for fear of being abused. Asresult, that child will never develop to his/her fullest potential.Someone who is supposed to love andprotect them ends up hurting them!
  18. 18. 12Abuse also impacts the entire family. Parents are often angry, scared,ashamed and confused at the thought of their child being abused. Thesituation becomes even more complex and difficult to understand if theabuse was done by a parent, relative or close friend.Quite often, the non-abusing parent blames him or herself for not beingable to protect the child from being abused. Abuse, of any type, has astrong impact on your family because your home is no longer viewed as asafe place. Some families are ashamed of the abuse and try to keep it a se-cret. Abuse also threatens the stability of the family and can cause the fam-ily structure to breakdown. This usually affects the care and support that isnormally provided to the child/children.
  19. 19. 13Remember,Talk with your child,Listen to your child,Believe your child,Because you just NEVERknow.ANY childcan become a victim of abuse!Now, more than ever, your family needs to be strong to support the victimof the abuse. The issue of the abuse will never go away, but you have a re-sponsibility to your child to get him/her the help that he/she needs in orderto face and recover from this abuse. No matter what happens, keep inmind that the abuse of a child is NEVER the child’s fault.
  20. 20. 14CHAPTER 2The main purpose of the child protection system is to provide a safe andsecure environment for every child. It also helps to link families toservices in order to keep families together and will support you in reunitingwith your child, if your child is removed from your home.The Child Protection System is not just one organization; it is a group ofagencies that all work together to provide services to children and families,such as protection, health care, education, and counseling . Theseorganizations include the Courts, the Department of Human Services,Police Department, and other government and non-governmental agenciesthat work together to ensure that decisions are made to achieve that whichis in your child’s best interest.What is the Child Protection System?HELP IS ON THE WAY
  21. 21. 15Which agencies make up the Child Protection System?The Child Protection System is composed of 5 main agencies.1. The Department of Human Services is the government body respon-sible for:♦ Responding to and investigating all reports of child abuse and neglect,♦ Helping families solve problems that may lead to abuse or neglect♦ Providing services to these children and families.The primary concern of this department is the protection of the child fromabuse and making decisions that serve your child’s best interest.2. The Police Department is also responsible for investigating all reportsof child abuse and neglect. Reports of child abuse can bemade directly to the Police Department. However, thePolice must work along with the Department of HumanServices to ensure the protection of the child. The PoliceDepartment is primarily concerned with gathering evi-dence in order to determine whether or not a crime hasbeen committed. The evidence gathered is then passed on to the Depart-ment of Public Prosecution for follow–up.
  22. 22. 16Diagram of Child Abuse Investigation Process conducted bythe Police DepartmentChild Abuse ReportNo Charge ChargeTrialPolice DepartmentCriminal InvestigationNot Guilty Guilty
  23. 23. 173. Medical Services, which includes all hospitals, clinics, and all medicalprofessionals, are responsible for being familiar with the signs and symp-toms of abuse and neglect. In cases where reports are made to the Depart-ment of Human Services or the Police Department, a medical examinationmust be done if there are visible signs of abuse or enough reason to believethe child has been abused and needs medical attention. Medical examina-tions are necessary to determine the condition of the child at the time theinvestigation is being done. Medical practitioners are also responsible forproviding treatment to victims. During medical exami-nations, evidence of the abuse is usually collected. Thisis necessary in order to bring charges against the allegedabuser. Medical practitioners must often provide experttestimony if the case is taken to court.
  24. 24. 184. The Department of Public Prosecution—DPP isresponsible for bringing the abuser to justice by con-ducting all criminal proceedings. Based on the evi-dence submitted by the Police Department, the DPP’smain function is to determine whether or not to filecharges against the alleged perpetrator of the abuse. Once charges arefiled, the DPP must prepare for trial. The decision whether or not criminalcharges should be initiated is based on:♦ Whether there is sufficient substantial evidence♦ Whether it is in the public interest to take the matter to trial♦ Whether or not it is in the interest of the child victim that the pro-ceedings should be instituted.The DPP must prove the guilt of the perpetrator/abuser.
  25. 25. 195. The Court System is responsible for giving al-leged perpetrators a fair trial and bringing abusers tojustice. The Criminal Court generally focuses onthe criminal act of the defendant/abuser, while theCivil Court hears the case and makes a decisionconcerning the safety and protection of the child. The Belize FamilyCourt performs preventive work and works to keep families together.Quite often, officers of the Family Court must conduct assessments andsubmit reports to the court regarding the welfare of children. The BelizeFamily Court also reports cases of abuse and neglect to the Department ofHuman Services for investigation.
  26. 26. 20CHAPTER 3The Department of Human Services (DHS) is a branch of governmentwithin the Ministry of Human Development that works to assist allpersons in the community to enjoy a better quality of life. The DHSprovides a wide range of services to families, children, older personsand persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS.DHS is divided into four main units. They are:1. Community and Parent Empowerment Project (COMPAR)2. Family Support Services3. Child Protection Services (CPS)4. Child Placement and Special Services (CPSS)Through these four units, the Department of Human Services is able toprovide a wide range of services which include financial assistance tofamilies, support services, counseling, substitute and institutional care,parenting education, referrals and services to special populations withinsociety. The DHS is also responsible for investigating all reportedcases of child abuse and neglect. The DHS will work along with youand your family to develop a plan to protect your child from harm andprovide you with information about child abuse.The people who work in the DHS may be called CommunityWhat is the Department of Human Services?KNOCK, KNOCK…..DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
  27. 27. 21Development Officers, Children’s Services Officers or Social ServicePractitioners.The lawsays that anyone who suspects that a child has been abused has amoral duty to report the abuse. There are some persons who also havea legal obligation to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.They are called mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters include:♦ Any person in charge of a public or private hospital, doctors,nurses and all other medical personnel who attend to a childexhibiting signs of abuse;♦ Any family member, teacher, social worker, school counselor,employee of a certified children’s institution, school administratoror principal, deputy principal of any educational institution,probation officer, police officer or any other employee of theGovernment of Belize whose daily duties entail dealing regularlywith childrenHow did the DHS get a report about my child?
  28. 28. 22Mandatory reporters do not need to have proof that a child is beingabused or neglected. They make reports based on their suspicions,taking into consideration their training in detecting the signs andsymptoms of abuse and neglect. Reports are made to the properauthorities so that a thorough investigation can be carried out to eitherprove or disprove that your child is being abused.It must also be noted that mandatoryreporters who fail to promptly report acase of suspected child abuse can be finedup to $1,000, be sent to jail or both.Reports can be made by the victims themselves,teachers, medical personnel, family members, socialworkers, counselors, employees or officers of theGovernment, or any other concerned citizen.
  29. 29. 23We should not keep silent about abuse. We all need to protect ourchildren from all forms of abuse and neglect. Reports can be made bycontacting the Department of Human Services or the Police Depart-ment, or you can also call the 24 hour hotline atEvery child has the right tobe protected from all formsof abuse and neglect.
  30. 30. 24When a report of child abuse is made, a worker from the Child ProtectiveServices, which is a branch of the Department of Human Services, willcontact your family.These workers respond to all suspected cases of abuse and neglect and willconduct the proper investigation to make sure that your child is not sufferingor likely to suffer harm.No. The DHS worker will inform you about the report but he/she cannot tellyou who made the report. DHS workers work confidentially, and it is theirduty to respond to any report of suspected abuse and to conduct aninvestigation and safety assessment to see if your child is at risk. Theyunderstand that not all families abuse their children on purpose, butWill I know who reported the abuse?Why did the DHS get involved with my family?
  31. 31. 25Do I have to allow the DHS worker into my home?No. You do not have to allow the DHS worker into your home; however, itis best for you to work along with the DHS worker. Whether or not youchoose to let the DHS worker into your home, he/she is still legally re-quired to conduct an investigation of the reported abuse. If the DHSworker has reason to believe that your child’s life or safety is in danger, theCourt will issue a Search and Production Order to enter your home and re-move your child or order you to bring your child to Court within 48 hours.What type of Investigation will the DHS conduct?When the DHS worker and the police officer visit your home, both willconduct an investigation. This involves conducting necessary inter-views to find out if your child has suffered any abuse or is in danger ofsuffering abuse.If your child is found to be suffering from abuse, a medical examinationwill be conducted by a doctor. This examination is important as it de-termines the extent of the abuse and the condition of the child at thattime. It is better if you, as the parent, cooperate with the authorities tohave the examination done.
  32. 32. 26If you do not cooperate, the law empowers the social worker and thePolice to have the medical examination completed without your con-sent.A part of the investigation also includes a safety assessment. Asafety assessment looks at whether or not a child will suffer abuse byremaining in the home. If your child is suffering from abuse, anemergency protection removal will take place, and your child will beremoved from your home by the Department of Human Services orthe Police. The Department of Human Services must then inform theMagistrate or Family Court within 48 hours that they have removedyour child.If your child is found to be suffering abuseand it is also determined that your home isnot the “best” place for your child, yourchild will be removed from your home andplaced in substitute care. Two separate in-vestigations will then be conducted: a socialinvestigation by the DHS worker and acriminal investigation by a police officer.
  33. 33. 27After the necessary interviews have been conducted, and information re-garding your child, family, and alleged offender has been gathered andreviewed, a decision will then be made as to whether the childwill return home, or be placed in substitute care. The decisionwill be made based on which is determined to be the safestplace for your child. Once a placement decision has beenmade, the Court will issue an order.
  34. 34. 28Diagram of Child Abuse Investigation Process conductedby the Department of Human ServicesChild Abuse ReportDepartment of Human ServicesAbuse UnconfirmedSocial InvestigationAbuse ConfirmedAdoptionSubstitute CareRemovalMaintain at HomeFamily Reunification
  35. 35. 29A Court Order is an instruction given by thecourt, telling someone what they can or cannot do.The Court may issue various types of orders.1. A Supervision Order allows the child toremain at home, under the supervision of theDepartment of Human Services (DHS) . The DHSis required to visit the home on a regular basis tomonitor the situation and to provide informationand support to parents.2. A Care Order authorizes the DHS to remove a child from his/herhome and to place the child them in substitute care. Remember, a childcan be removed under emergency protection without a court order, butthe care order must be obtained within 48 hours.3. A Custody Order takes away custody of the child from the parent(s)and gives it to the DHS. The child can then be placed for adoption.4. A Maintenance Order - when a child is placed in substitute care,the DHS can ask the Court to issue a maintenance order. This orderinstructs parents to pay child maintenance to the DHS.CHAPTER 6What are Court Orders?
  36. 36. 30CHAPTER 4You have been told by the DHS worker that your child has been placedin substitute care. This means that your child has been placed in asafe, nurturing environment, either in someone else’s homeor in a children’s home/institution. Your child will remain insubstitute care until a plan can be developed.When a decision is made to place a child in substitute care, the “bestsubstitute” for your child will be chosen.First, the DHS worker will inquire about any relatives who can providea safe and nurturing environment for your child, and the DHS workerwill assess if your relatives can provide for the needs of your child Thisis referred to as a ‘Relative Foster Home’.The second option will be to place your child in foster care. TheWhat is “substitute care”?What are the different types of substitute care?WHERE IS MY CHILD GOING?
  37. 37. 31Remember, the goal isto be reunited withyour child. It is yourresponsibility to showinterest in your childand work with theDHS worker.families that provide foster care have to meet certain standards set bythe Department for them to qualify as foster families so as to ensurethe safety of your child.Finally, your child may be placed in a children’shome. The Department will do its best to place allyour children together. However, due to differentsituations this may not be possible. In some cases,such as a child needing special treatment or if thefoster family does not have enough space, yourchildren may be placed separately.Yes. It is very important that you give the DHS worker allDo I need to give the DHS worker any informationabout
  38. 38. 32the necessary information about your child.Information regarding your child’s♦ medical history♦ school and learning abilities♦ eating habits♦ information about close friends and relativesand♦ any other information that will help your childreceive the best care and make the adjustmentto the new home easier.
  39. 39. 33CHAPTER 5Permanency planning is a “comprehensive planning process directedtoward the goal of a permanent, stable environment for a child.”This permanency plan should be developed along with you, the parentand should ensure that timely decisions are made that will provide astable, permanent home for your child.The permanency plan is developed after an assessment of your child andyour family has been completed. The DHS worker will then be able toidentify your child’s needs and desires and will work with you indeveloping the best plan for your child. This plan will be reviewed on aregular basis, sometimes a monthly review is recommended. However,you should note that in no way will your child’s plan go longer thanninety days without a review.What is a “permanency plan”?How is the permanency plan developed for my child?WHAT PLANS DO THEY HAVE FOR MY CHILD?
  40. 40. 34There are SIX various types of permanency plans.1. Maintain at home:Keeping your child at home is usually the first choice. This plan looksat providing support to families and directs them to other agencies forassistance.2. Return Home/Family ReunificationThis plan allows your child to return to your home. You must ensurethat positive changes have taken place in your home and that your childwill no longer be at risk for further abuse.3. Family UnificationThis plan allows for legal guardianship with a relative, placement with apreviously unknown biological parent, or reunification with a parentliving abroad.4. Adoption:The DHS is also responsible for permanency planning, making surethat families and children receive proper counselling and support,and that the child is ultimately placed in a permanent and stablehome. Permanency planning may result in your child being returned home once the DHS has determined that he/she is no longerat risk.What are the types of permanency plans?
  41. 41. 35If the plan is for adoption then a court hearing will take place and a fullcustody order will be granted to the department . This will occur ifyou fail to meet the requirements of a plan or show no sign ofimproving the conditions at home.5. Long-term Foster CareThis is rarely done, and is usually applied to older children or childrenwith special needs. The Department may, however, establish a plan forlong-term foster care. If your child has lived with a foster family formore than five years, and for economic reasons the family chooses notto adopt, your child will stay with the foster family until adulthood.6. Semi-independent living/independent living:This plan is only for a child who reaches the age of 18 years while inthe care and custody of the Department. This plan provides your childwith the necessary life skills to live as independently as possible.This is often the first question asked by some parents/guardians, whofeel that their child has been away from home too long. However, aWhen will the case be closed?
  42. 42. 36case can only be closed if the situation improves, the goals of thecare plan have been reached, or the child is in a permanent home andthe child is no longer in need of protective custody or services. Thecase is also closed when a child reaches his/her eighteenth birthday,which is adulthood.
  43. 43. 37The perpetratoris the personwho allegedly abused the child. Once a report of abuse has been made, thePolice will conduct a thorough investigation and will gather evidence of thecrime. Once there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed, theabuser is arrested and taken to Court.Depending on the type of charge that the police bring against the allegedperpetrator, the case will either be taken to theMagistrate’s Court or the Supreme Court. The Courtwill determine the alleged abuser’s guilt or innocence.The more severe charges will go to the Supreme Court.If the alleged perpetrator is found guilty of childabuse, the Court will issue a sentence, and theperpetrator will be taken to prison.What happens to the perpetrator of theWHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
  44. 44. 38How do I support my child?Even if the abuser is not found guilty by the criminal court, that does notmean that you, as the parent and the Department of Human Services cannotwork together to protect your child. You can still file a civil case againstyour child’s abuser.If you are the non-offending parent, there are many things that you can doto support your child. Here are some tips to help along the way:♦ Believe your child and let your child know that telling you about theabuse was a good thing to do.♦ Reassure your child and let him/her know that youstill love and care for him/her very much. Let yourchild know that he/she is not alone and that youwill do everything in your power to help.♦ Reinforce that the abuse is not your child’s fault.Emphasize that it is never okay for an adult toabuse a child in any way. It is not your child’s faultno matter what anyone else might say.
  45. 45. 39♦ Get help. Report the abuse to the proper authorities. They can help togive you more information and answer your questions so that you arebetter able to support your child through thischallenging time.♦ Provide a safe environment for your child to talkto you and begin to heal.♦ Understand that your child might also needcounseling. There is nothing wrong in getting your child and yourfamily professional help.♦ Go to Court with your child.♦ Work along with the Department of Human Services and the Depart-ment of Public Prosecutions to explain the process of going to Court toyour child.♦ Provide a safe environment for your child by ensuring that the allegedperpetrator does not come in contact with your child, intimidate yourchild or try to persuade your child not to testify in Court.♦ Work with your child and the rest of your family to develop a safetyplan so that abuse does not reoccur.
  46. 46. 40Coping with the abuse of a child is a traumatic experience for any fam-ily. Even if you are the parent who caused the abuse, you can work to-ward reunification with your child. It is your responsibility to followthe orders issued by the court and to work closely with the Departmentof Human Services. If you do all that is required of you and you areno longer a threat to your child, then the Department of Human Ser-vices will work with you towards family reunification.If you are the non-offending par-ent, it is your responsibility to protect your child from further abuse byreporting the abuse to the proper authorities, and offering your childthe support that he/she needs.
  47. 47. 41Child abuse isn’t just the family’s business because it affects the en-tire society. It is an issue that everyone needs to pay attention to anddo their part to protect our most precious resource, our children.There are other agencies who can assist you.Who else can help?Agency Telephone NumberPolice Family Violence Unit 227-2222Community Rehabilitation Department 223-2716Belize Family Life Association 203-1018Young Women’s Christian Association 203-4971Young Men’s Christian Association 222-5526BCVI—Belize Council for the Visually Im-paired227-7776CARE Belize 223-5986YES—Youth Enhancement Services 223-0970NOPCAN—National Organization for thePrevention of Child Abuse and Neglect 203-0441Belize Family Court 227-4114
  48. 48. 42Children have the rightto live with their parentsunless this is not in thechild’s best interest.Children have the right to be protected fromabuse and neglect. The Government shallprovide programmes for the prevention of abuseand treatment to those who have suffered abuse.Children without a family areentitled to special protection,and appropriate alternativefamily or institutional care,with regard for the child’scultural background.Children have the right to beprotected from sexual exploi-tation and abuse, including in-volvement in prostitution andpornography.Children have the right to beprotected from work thatharms them and keeps themfrom getting an education.Remember...Children have the rightto an opinion and to belistened to and takenseriously.
  49. 49. For further information, feel free to contact theDepartment of Human Services in your district.Belize City2nd FloorCommercial Center227-7451 or 227-2057Belmopan CityWest Block BuildingIndependence Plaza822-2161Corozal Town5th Avenue422-2120DangrigaGeorge Price Drive522-2089Orange Walk TownSlaughterhouse Street322-2283Punta Gorda Town18 Main Middle Street722-2021San Ignacio TownBusman Arnold BuildingCorner Mossiah and VictoriaStreets824-2098
  50. 50. National Committee for Families and Children62 Cleghorn StreetBelize City, BelizeTel: 501-223-0059501-223-1180Fax: 501-223-1229Email: ncfc@btl.net“Championing the Rights and Welfare ofBelizean Children and their Families”

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