Group to address child abuse at international forum

| 13/02/2018
CNS Local Life

PSH working group members (L-R) Brandy Darby, Sophia Chandler-Alleyne, Nancy Davey, Suzanne Seagraves, Carolina Ferreira, Cindy Blekaitis, Kevin Ashworth, Laura Elniski and Mari Abe (not pictured: Camila Ferreira)

(CNS Local Life): Multi-agency working group Protection Starts Here (PSH) has been invited to present at the 34th International Symposium on Child Abuse hosted by the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) in Alabama 19-22 March. The group is the driving force behind the PSH child abuse prevention project, launched in 2012 to bring willing government, non-government and private sector organisations together to address the issue of child sexual abuse specifically and child abuse in general in Cayman.

Spearheaded by the Cayman Islands Red Cross (CIRC), the group comprises representatives from the Employee Assistance Programme, the Health Services Authority, the Ministry of Education, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services, Sands Creative Film Studio, and the Special Needs Foundation, stated a CIRC press release. The project was launched with a series of public service announcements, and since then the work has expanded and includes producing a local documentary on child sexual abuse in Cayman, creating educational tools for laypersons and professionals, establishing a twice-monthly Darkness to Light training schedule, setting up a two-day policy development workshop on child safeguarding and, most recently, piloting a free support group for teen survivors of abuse. The work has been funded and supported by Hedge Funds Care Cayman since 2013.

“The Ministry of Education recognises that child protection is not the responsibility of a single agency, but involves a concerted effort from numerous stakeholders working together towards the same goal,” said Shari Smith, senior policy advisor and manager for inclusion, at the Ministry of Education.

“The Protection Starts Here group draws together professionals from numerous agencies in an effort to raise awareness about child abuse and join efforts to enhance prevention strategies. The ministry is pleased that it is able to not only support the Protection Starts Here group through the involvement of ministry staff, but as well as to continue to be an advocate for the protection of all children in numerous arenas.”

The International Symposium on Child Abuse provides expert training to professionals in the child maltreatment field, and is one of the few conferences that addresses all aspects of child maltreatment, stated the press release. The symposium offers more than 160 workshops with tracks that are designed specifically for medical, mental health/treatment, sexual exploitation, prevention, advocacy and youth-serving organisations, among many others.

While representatives from the Cayman Islands have attended this symposium in the past and have found it extremely beneficial to help develop their programmes and initiatives as well as their own skills and knowledge base-this is the first time that anyone from Cayman is being asked to be a presenter.

“Of the approximate 140 presenters, less than 10% are from outside the continental United States,” explained Amy Boyd, NCAC conference manager. “The PSH working group is the first from the Caribbean region to have been selected to present in the history of the conference.”

The PSH working group is unlike other multi-agency/disciplinary group due to its focus on prevention. The NCAC committee responsible for choosing conference presenters were compelled by the work done by the group. “(The PSH group) are already implementing things, (their work) is not theoretical,” added Boyd. “This will serve as a great model for other organisations looking to put something similar together.”

CIRC director Jondo Obi added the Cayman group has much to offer its international counterparts. “Far too often we look for solutions to come from ‘somewhere else’ and we don’t give enough credit to the talent and innovation that can be found right here at home,” she said. “For the past five years this team has been coming together to join not only forces but also knowledge, skills, expertise and experience to bring tangible, dynamic, multi-faceted solutions to one of our most persistent problems. They have created another form of multi-agency partnership which will hopefully inspire and empower others to do the same.”

For more information on the Protection Starts Here project or how to get involved in child abuse prevention in Cayman, call 916-1742 or email CIRC

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