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Combating Child Abuse in the Caribbean

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Posted on 3/20/2013
Child from St. Vincent
Children in St. Vincent and other Caribbean countries are at risk of abuse and neglect, a persistent issue ChildFund and others are addressing.

Physical and emotional child abuse and neglect are a persistent problem in Caribbean countries, including Dominica and St. Vincent, where ChildFund has worked since 1985.

The Cycle of Abuse

Social attitudes toward child abuse and domestic violence are complex in Caribbean nations such as Dominica and St. Vincent. Rates of reported child sexual abuse were particularly high during the early 1990s, and although much progress has been made, the crime remains a serious problem in many Caribbean nations. Youth gang and domestic violence is particularly prevalent, and often law enforcement agencies and child services are stretched thin. In addition, girls and young women are sometimes marginalized because of a lack of education and resources, which makes reporting both domestic and child abuse difficult.

Child neglect is another significant problem in Caribbean households. Parents may not be able to adequately provide for their children's basic needs, and combined with few jobs, substance abuse and domestic violence, children can be in danger.

The psychological damage abuse victims endure can be devastating. According to the American Psychological Association, children who have suffered abuse can develop a range of serious mental health conditions in later life, including post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety and depression. In addition, some victims of child abuse develop substance abuse problems as adolescents and can experience great difficulty in leading healthy, happy lives.

Working Toward Solutions

One of the most urgent problems that Caribbean nations face when attempting to tackle emotional and physical child abuse is the lack of a defined legislative framework. Following the United Nations' study on family violence against children in the Caribbean, the need for clearly defined public policies to protect vulnerable children was identified as a primary means of reducing the number of child abuse cases in the region.

ChildFund has worked in Dominica and St. Vincent since 1985, and collaborates with regional and local organizations on initiatives that address child abuse. We are also a member of the Global Movement for Children, a coalition of nonprofit, advocacy and government organizations working together to solve the urgent problem of child abuse. In addition, ChildFund has worked with government officials as part of the National Early Child Development Council and the Child Rights Committee to create lasting solutions that will protect the lives of children in the Caribbean.

The Roving Caregivers Program, sponsored by ChildFund, is helping address the roots of physical and emotional abuse by creating a healthy bond between children and parents. It includes activities geared toward early child stimulation and development, which are conducted at home by visiting facilitators or volunteers. The program also includes parent education, income generation, health and nutrition and youth development programming.

To help us continue our child abuse prevention efforts in the Caribbean, consider sponsoring a child. For just $28 per month, you can help us provide children with food, educational opportunities and health care, all of which are vital to helping families emerge from poverty.

Alternatively, our Real Gifts Catalog offers a range of ways to help. For less than $200, you can help us provide a rural family in the Caribbean with two goats that will help them gain financial independence and offer children a healthier, more stable future.