Drive to guard kids from abuse

News Ria Chaitram 5 hours agoNichola Harvey-Mitchell, Director of the Children’s Authority – NATALIE MILES

The director of the Children’s Authority would like to achieve the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” in the next three years in order to guarantee the protection of the children.

Nichola Harvey-Mitchell, 50, started her role last March and has big plans for the organization, from reform and self-sufficiency to law changes.

A child advocate in her private life, Harvey-Mitchell told Sunday Newsday that she intends to conduct a full investigation into a child’s rights and ensure that they are properly enforced.

The organization, she said, was developing its strategic plan that showed the need to be more efficient and more responsive.

“We want to increase the prevention of child abuse through awareness-raising, especially in the villages where people cannot reach us online. We not only want to sensitize teachers and children, but also communities.

“We want to do more lobby work on some legislative changes and advocate for children’s rights and work on the importance of the family from a parental perspective,” said Harvey-Mitchell.

Responding and timely child protection, stakeholder collaboration, institutional strengthening and financial sustainability were areas she also wanted to address.

The headquarters of the Children’s Authority on Wrightson Road in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB – ROGER JACOB

One focus of the agency was on emphasizing the importance of the family and the involvement of the community in the upbringing of the child. She believes this method is a way to reduce incidents of child abuse, as the family or family environment, through community involvement, allows individuals to find positive influences and make contributions.

“The stories of children I see through the Children’s Authority indicate a lack of family structure, support and understanding of the role as a family member.

“The family is crucial to the psychosocial perspective. Our society doesn’t have that, so see why we have so many fragmented families and so much abuse. Children come to us with stories that their mother or father sexually abused them.

“How could that be when a parent’s divine role is to protect?”

She challenged parents and people who wanted to be parents to take their roles and responsibilities seriously.

“Parenthood is a serious commitment in life. Five minutes of pleasure is a lifetime development that many people miss with their children. We need to train and retrain our parents. Sex is a good thing, but you forget the lifelong responsibility of taking care of a child. “

Cooperation with stakeholders, particularly the police, and legislative changes were also areas that the agency intends to promote. Fine-tuning the working relationship with the Police Child Protection Department (CPU) is critical to improving their ability to respond to cases. The CPU and agency were founded about five years ago and have worked together to identify and eradicate child abuse.

According to Harvey-Mitchell, a good working relationship with health, education, and other institutions such as churches has also determined whether a child is at risk of abuse or may be abused.

“Research has shown that if we work early in the child’s life, starting with the parents visiting the health facility, child abuse can be prevented.

“We would therefore like to work with any agencies the child would work with to detect and prevent child abuse, but also work together to ensure that the child is well cared for and that the child’s rights are upheld.”

She said the agency has reached out to RBC, Republic Bank, Massy Stores and others for financial assistance to fulfill its mandate.

The agency falls under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, headed by Ayanna Webster-Roy, which provides the funds for its operations.

“Our resources are not growing as quickly as the number of cases we receive. The government has been generous in increasing our subsidies, but the child abuse cases and interventions and treatments that we must address require more financial resources. “She pointed out.

With the limited resources, she added that the agency’s staff have worked hard because of their collective ideology of creating a safe environment for children.

The position of director at the authority is a full-time position. Harvey-Mitchell said the success of her goals for the agency during her tenure will affect her decision on a second term. The position has a three-year contract.

“At the end of the contract, the position will be advertised again. I can choose to apply again,” she said.

The agency has 278 temporary employees. There is an additional classification of employees, which includes 51 on-the-job trainees, skilled workers, interns and interns, and 42 independent service providers.

The new board was appointed by the Prime Minister in December.

The members are the chairmen Dr. Carol Logie, Vice Chairperson Jennifer Boucaud-Blake, Dr. Hazel Othello, Dr. Gillian Wheeler, Harrilal Seecharan, Denyse Gouveia, Dr. Natalie Dick, Keon Cunningham, Marcrina Peters, Rawlinson Agard, Sule Joseph, Maria Baptiste and Laura Davis and ex officio member and Director of Authority Harvey-Mitchell.

Strong family ties formed the basis for success

Harvey-Mitchell, who grew up in Laventille, said she needed to prove a little more because of the stereotype associated with the area she once lived in.

She has an MBA (International), Mini-MBA in Telecommunications, BSc in Sociology and Management and multiple certificates in Customer Service, Leadership, Organizational Development, Change Management, Public Relations, Voice Transmission and Media, a proficient communicator from Toastmasters International who teaches children about Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) entrepreneurship, positive psychology, personal development coaching and combating violent extremism.

Harvey-Mitchell said her training took place mostly in local institutions. Having worked in different sectors at different levels, her experiences have brought her to appreciate everyone and their respective roles in society.

“The negative perception and stigmatization of people from Laventille is there. I can’t ignore it. I’m not rich and my parents did their best to raise me and my ten siblings, but I had a strong family unit and foundation which has been key to my success.

“This stable family structure has changed throughout my life. My mother instilled in us that hard work and service to others are important pillars of success, no matter where we live or how much money we have. “

Although she has no children, Harvey-Mitchell extends her maternal love and care to the children in a non-governmental organization she founded.

The We Say Yes Foundation aims to help the risk arts and enable them to realize their potential as entrepreneurs.

She said: “People refer to them as youth at risk, but I call them potential youth, and our work is in Spain’s east port and extends to Arima. We have a structured six-year program for children between the ages of 5 and 16.

“We target children who may not have an opportunity and introduce them to concepts of entrepreneurship, self-empowerment and how they can use them to make positive decisions.”

Harvey-Mitchell wears several other hats as a success coach, author of a motivational book “21 Powerful P’s to Success”, lecturer, chairman of the Global Coalition for Youth Employment at the Department of Sport and Community Development, member of the community recovery program, which Dr. Keith Rowley was created to evaluate and design a way for communities in need after widespread protests against the murder of three men by police in Morvant. Her roles on this team include social pathology / mental health, correctional facilities and psychiatric forensic investigations.

She is also a member of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Next Gen Leadership Board and a graduate of the US Embassy’s International Leadership Visitors Program.

“I am really excited about serving the young people, especially those who may not have the opportunities I had. The vulnerable, those who may be disadvantaged, those who do not have (the same) economic well-being as others. That is why I work in the East Port areas of Spain and Arima, where there are depressed, low-income families. “

Harvey-Mitchell urged people not to forget that spirituality is also a key part of fulfilling a person’s purpose in life, and hobbies are good stress relievers. Her own include dancing, singing, reading, exercising, and of course, sleeping.

Increase in physical and emotional abuse

Statistics from the agency showed that from March to October 2020, there was an increase in reported child abuse of 272 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 3,354 from 3,082 in 2019. There was an average of 419 cases per month for this period.

Statistics also showed an increase in the period of physical abuse to 15.7 percent from 13.8 percent in 2019 and emotional abuse by 13.1 percent from 9.6 percent.

The agency saw a small 22.3 percent decrease in sexual abuse for 2020. In 2019 it was 23.4 percent. The neglect decreased to 15.1 percent. In 2019 it was 20.3 percent.

Under the Children’s Authority Act, Section 14, assessment, support and reception centers are provided for temporary care for children by providing foster and emergency accommodation for up to 12 weeks.

The childcare center also falls under the authority’s area of ​​responsibility and has emergency and short-term accommodation for children who were removed immediately. The location is safe, child-friendly and professionally staffed.

Cases of sexual and physical abuse in March – October over the years –

Harvey-Mitchell noted that the agency’s job is not to remove children from their homes, but to intervene when a child is in imminent danger.

“If a child’s stay with their family is not in the best interests of the child, the child will be removed. The agency will seek to place the child with another relative who is suitable and able to adequately meet the child’s needs. If a suitable relative cannot be found, the child is placed in the care of the authority. “

She added that investigations need to be conducted if reports are received to substantiate or not substantiate the allegations, which would determine appropriate action.

“To support the report, the agency conducts a social investigation, which usually includes a home visit that includes interviews with the child’s parents and other relatives, a school visit, and community inquiries.

“In some cases, additional investigative work is conducted to determine the issue so that a fully informed recommendation can be made. At the same time, the criminal investigation is carried out by the CPU. ”

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