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