Children’s Authority: Child safety a top priority during school vacation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Beachgoers of all ages enjoy Maracas Beach in 2020. – File photo by Roger Jacob

THE Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is urging parents and guardians to make child safety a top priority during the July-August vacation.

The school year ended on July 5.

“While this is a time for leisure, fun and exploration, there is a need for all adults to remain watchful, and safeguard all children from abuse, maltreatment and physical harm,” the authority said in a news release on July 6.

The authority is encouraging parents and guardians to spend time in fun-filled activities with their children during the holidays.

It also advised members of the public that “child protection is everybody’s business.”

It said that, as a result of the changes to the routines of children during the vacation period and a lack of adequate supervision and caregiver awareness, children are more vulnerable to accidents, harm and abuse. Therefore, parents and guardians are encouraged to make suitable arrangements for the care of children during their vacation.

For those who would be participating in camp or organised group activities, parents and guardians should enquire from organisers about the arrangements in place to ensure child safety.

The authority advised that parents teach children how to protect themselves from abuse as this is a vital step in ensuring their protection.

It is highly recommended that parents and guardians keep an open line of communication, so children feel comfortable in disclosing any incidents that may have occurred.

Director and chief executive officer of the authority Sheldon Cyrus encouraged those in positions of trust, to report all instances of abuse and maltreatment towards children.

“We all have a role in safeguarding our nation’s children, as child abuse is not just a family issue but a societal problem that requires our collective response,” he said.

Cyrus said the following should be observed to keep children safe:

• Teach children about consent, which includes:

No one has a right to touch their body

Ok and Not Ok touches

It’s okay to say “no” to unwanted hugs, kisses, or other affection, even from family members

• Know who is supervising your child when he/she is spending time away from home.

Ask about sleeping arrangements

Ask who frequents the household

Ask about firearms and other weapons

Ask about safety plans

• Monitor your child’s friendships, especially with adults who repeatedly attempt to spend time alone with your child, away from others.

• Be aware of your child’s online activity. Be alert to changes in behaviour, as sudden changes in a child’s behaviour or emotional state, may indicate a problem.

• Utilise non-physical forms of discipline to reduce incidents of physical abuse.

• Keep a watchful eye on children at the beach, river and pool, and secure open containers of water at home.

• Ensure that potential hazards at home are well-stored and kept out of the reach of children.

• Teach children about road safety.

• Remind children of emergency contact numbers and what should be done in case of an emergency.

For more tips, visit the Authority’s social media pages (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

To report any incident or suspicion of abuse, contact the Police at 999 or the Authority at 996.