Crisis Centre opens helpline for kids

| 25/11/2018 | 0 Comments
CNS Local Life

(L-R) Ania Milanowska, Governor Martyn Roper and Sarah Murphy at the launch

(CNS Local Life): The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC) launched its Kids Helpline — 649-KIDS (5437) — on Thursday, 22 November, offering help and support at the end of a phone line to children and young adults up to age 18. Reaching out to young people was a “dream” of the Crisis Centre, which opened in 2003 as a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and their children, said Ania Milanowska, CICC Executive Director, at the launch.

“Expanding our existing over-the-phone services to help children and young people was our dream for quite some time. Having passionate and dedicated people by one’s side is often that extra step needed to turn a dream into reality,” she told those attending the launch ceremony, which included Governor Martyn Roper and representatives of related services. “Our Kids Helpline safeguards and protects the rights of a child,” she said.

The service provides a resource outside of the young people’s immediate circle of family and/or friends to contact for support on issues concerning their well-being.

The helpline “is an example of the importance we all place on safeguarding children and our desire to work together in a spirit of partnership, not only to strengthen systems but to build greater awareness and increase action to ensure our children are protected from harm,” said Roper at the launch, noting, “As one of the first helplines in the overseas territories, the Cayman Islands continue to set the standard for others.”

He also emphasised that as governor he attached particular importance to having the opportunity to meet and talk to young people, as he spoke of the need for the helpline. “All societies have very common problems with young people. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there will always be problems, sadly, but I think having a facility like this is so important to providing that extra level of reassurance to people and contact to people.

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Martyn Roper speaking at the opening ceremony

“I’m really impressed by this initiative because it combines local knowledge, expertise and skills with support from the UK on the broader issue of child safeguarding, and I think that’s a really powerful combination.”

The UK National Crime Agency Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (NCA CEOP) and the office of the governor worked together to help facilitate the helpline on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with stakeholders in Cayman.

“In the UK a similar programme – ‘Childline’ – has helped many children since it began in 1986,” the governor said. “Their trained counsellors are available to talk to those young people in need no matter what the issue may be – big or small. I hope the Kids Helpline pilot will continue on into 2019 and expand further to enable young people to make contact in other ways such as via WhatsApp and online. There are many reasons why a child may need someone to talk to – enabling that support and advice is crucial.”

Over the last 18 months, Sarah Murphy of NCA CEOP, has been working with the Crisis Centre to develop the helpline. During that time, part of the work she did was to assess the need for the phone service by talking to young people in Cayman about such things as why they might need the helpline, and what they would expect from it.

“Speaking to the kids and seeing what they wanted (gave them) a voice in being able to form the service,” Murphy explained, adding that she also spoke to various agencies in Cayman that deal with young people.

Initially the lines, which are being handled by three CICC staff members along with a supervisor, will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3pm-6pm.

The number to call is 649-KIDS (5437) and is available to young people on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

All eleven CICC employees have been trained to take the calls, with volunteers for the service to be trained in January by Carol-Anne Fordyce, who joined CICC two months ago and has 15 years experience in the field.

For the next three the four months, the helpline will operate as a pilot programme so its efficacy and requirements can be gauged, Milanowska said. “It is very difficult to say how many people will reach out at this point; that is why we are doing it as a pilot phase.” She explained they will observe the service to assess the needs, note the issues being called about and how many young people call in.

Based on that assessment, they could increase the hours of operation, depending on available funding. “We are trying to start softly and eventually in 2019 the idea, the hope, is we will be able to have this line open 24/7,” Milanowska said, pointing out that they also are looking at later adding a social media aspect including live chats “because this is how kids communicate”.

She added that calls to the helpline are free, thanks to sponsorship by Digicel, which also covers CICC staff returning calls to the young people or contacting other necessary support services.

The centre will reach out to other stakeholders if the caller requires specific help. These agencies are the Department of Children and Family Services, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service as well as its Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, the 911 communication centre, Department of Education Services, the Health Services Authority and the Family Resource Centre. The CICC also works with an independent mental health counsellor.

The Crisis Centre already has a 24/7 hotline for adults (943-2422), which is the only free call line for people in non-medical trouble. The government does not have a hotline dedicated to mental health emergencies other than 911 emergency services.

“In the case of a mental health emergency, we encourage persons to contact 911 immediately for help or if possible, come to our Accident and Emergency Department for immediate care,” an HSA spokesperson said. “If someone is suicidal, like any other medical or life-threatening emergency we still encourage them to call 911. The objective for calling 911 is for them to have general 24/7 access to someone who can immediately send the resources and help necessary to handle such cases.”

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Category: Community, Youth

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