Mission Child Protection launched
- 37 children rescued from the streets in three days
Stabroek News
March 13, 2007

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The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has begun a campaign aimed at getting children off the streets, reuniting them with their families where possible and working with parents and guardians to ensure that the children have a good home environment.

To date, after three days 'Mission Child Protection' has seen 37 children rescued from the streets and 26 of them have been returned to their parents. The parents are to be counselled by ministry officials and those in need would also receive financial assistance.

The 11 children, whose parents/relatives have not yet been traced, have been placed at a home made available just for this exercise. Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand said yesterday that the ministry would move to the courts to seek assistance in ensuring that they are sent to school and could remain at the location for a longer period.

The minister told reporters yesterday that the campaign commenced last week, adding that it was the realisation of one of the things on her agenda when she took office last year. It was delayed because of lack of a facility to house the children; the ministry did not want to pick the children up and lock them up at the police station.

However, with the help of other ministries and non- governmental organisations (NGOs), the minister said, a building has been secured and turned into a home for the children with the boys being housed separately from the girls.

A trained police officer who has a social work degree has been hired to head the operation at the home and other persons have also been hired to work as orderlies.

The minister did not want to reveal the location, as she is keen on protecting the children housed there, but she said it was different from the Drop-in Centre as the children were not allowed to leave. Children who live on the streets with their parents would not be allowed to return to that environment.

Head of the Child Care Unit at the ministry Ann Greene said that so far none of the children, who range in ages from 15 to four years, have resisted being picked up.

At the moment, the ministry is focusing on George-town and its environs but it is hoped that the exercise can be moved to other parts of the country.

The minister said also that she was very concerned about the number of children found in Nintendo games' shops during school hours. She said it was an indictment on the owners for allowing the children to be there during school hours. She said that should this continue she would ensure that action was taken against these owners.

Greene told reporters some children are addicted to the games and are stealing from the parents to feed their urges to play the games. She said children are even "trusting from the owners and promising to pay later."

Since Mission Child Protection started, the minister said, two parents have gone on the Justice for All programme and complained that the ministry is removing their children from the streets because of World Cup Cricket.

The minister said this was far from the truth, but added that the exercise was not being made public to respond to the parents, as there is no intention to get into a public debate with parents. She explained that when the ministry was about to start the campaign some of her officers were of the opinion that it should be put on hold until after the cricket because the perception would be that the children were being picked up because of the cricket. However, she said she decided to go ahead as she could be saving a child's life and that could not wait until after the cricket. She said the funding was made available and therefore the exercise began.

Permanent Secretary Trevor Thomas said the ministry began planning Mission Child Protection since last year. He said the home where the children are was very comfortable. They are being taught; they have games to play with; food to eat and a bed to sleep on, so much so that some of the children were asking to remain there.

"We have a duty to provide some sort of home and that is what we are doing," the minister said, adding that the ministry did not want any credit for the initiative, helping to save the children was enough.