SCORES of community members from the Irwin community turned out at the Office of the Children's Registry's (OCR) child abuse prevention sensitisation session held on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at the Irwin Primary school in St James, to learn about how they can protect and care for their children.
The event was one of several school tours being held in various communities across the island, as part of the OCR's efforts to raise awareness about how persons can help to prevent and report child abuse.
The session was supported by the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna, who urged the residents, especially the parents, to be vigilant of the various changes in their children's attitudes and behaviours, and foster an open communication culture with their children.
Greig Smith, registrar, OCR; Edmund Bartlett, member of Parliament, East Central St James; and Stein Graham, councillor, Spring Mount Division were also present at the event and gave greetings.
Another session was held a few weeks ago in Claremont, St Ann, where an 11-year-old girl was reported to have been sexually abused by a relative. Many community members attended and voiced their opinions on issues affecting children, with several persons calling for the penalties against sexual offenders to be made more severe. At both sessions, persons expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the age of consent is 16 and individuals at the Claremont session signed a petition calling for the age of consent to be increased.
The Children's Registry, a statutory body under the Ministry of Youth and Culture, was established in January 2007 under the Child Care & Protection Act (CCPA) 2004, and is responsible for receiving reports of child abuse and recording, assessing and referring them to the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children's Advocate and the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) for investigation and action.
The OCR has been playing an important role in capturing incidents of child abuse. Since its inception to date, it has received over 30,000 reports of child abuse, with more than 7,800 reports received in 2011 and over 6,500 reports received in 2012 to date. In addition to managing reports, the Children's Registry also carries out a number of public education initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about child abuse prevention and reporting.