In an interview yesterday, Browne extended condolences to the Arismandez family and joined other people who “are recoiling in horror in what has reported to have occurred in this situation.”
While incidences like the Hope case always spark calls for more to be done to protect the rights of the child, Browne said there were things within the control of the ministry to do and others outside of its control. He said the Ministry was focusing on public education and awareness and cited the recent launch of National Family Month. Browne said the attention of society was being focused on the rights of children and the fact they were vulnerable without collective attention and protection. Browne said society had to be more than just their “brother’s keeper.”
“All too often after the fact it is realised that someone knew or may have been concerned about a situation of an affected child. Too often this emerges after tragedies like this.”
The Children’s (Amendment) Bill 2007 was laid in the House of Representatives more than two weeks ago and Browne said he expected debate to begin by the middle of June. In the interim, a multi-sectoral committee has been established under Browne’s ministry to advise on the implications of an effective Children’s Authority.
The committee has been liaising with the Public Administration Ministry to identify appropriate facilities for the operations of the authority.
Browne said forums were also held this year with representatives from the ministries of Health, National Security, Education and the Social Services Division, “to look at the implications of the Children’s Authority on their operations and how they could facilitate rapid establishment of the authority.”
Civil society groups and non-governmental organisations are also being mobilised in anticipation of the passage of the legislation. A forum will be held next month at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain.
However, Browne said the Government and Children’s Authority could not look through every window or be at every door. “At the end of the day it is the critical responsibility of the family and all responsible adults to protect the interests and welfare of children and alert the relevant authorities be it Childline, which is a service offered by an NGO, the school social worker, National Family Services, or Police Service.”
Browne said the police did “respond rapidly” and are improving in the way they respond to reports of abuse of children.