Log In

Reset Password

Spotlight on child neglect

Advocating for children: Martha Dismont, executive director of Family Centre (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A charity will embark on a hard-hitting awareness campaign to tackle the “disturbing” rise in child neglect reports in Bermuda.

Referrals for child neglect increased by more than a quarter in 2015 and make up the highest number of referrals the Department for Child and Family Services receives annually.

The rising tide of referrals comes as Family Centre launches its annual “Taking Action Against Neglect” campaign that begins today and runs until November 20.

Sandy De Silva, director of services at Family Centre, told The Royal Gazette that the charity deals with many children suffering from the effects of neglect.

“This disturbing trend coincided with our increasing awareness that positive parenting is hard to maintain during times of stress and given that our community continues to live in stressful times,” Dr De Silva said.

“Hence, we have partnered with the Department of Child and Family Services to raise awareness of what constitutes neglect of children and how we can begin to stop it, report it and, most importantly, support our community in re-establishing norms in parenting even when times are stressful.”

Alfred Maybury, director of Child and Family Services revealed that the department had received increases in reports of child neglect year over year for the past two years.

“Long-term child neglect can have significant physical, psychological and behavioural consequences on children,” Mr Maybury said. “It is important that we as a community support our families and protect our children from this form of abuse”.

The campaign, which is designed to raise awareness about what child neglect is and the forms it can take, is also meant to encourage family, friends, and neighbours who may witness neglectful behaviour to report it.

Dr De Silva added: “We have taken a hard-hitting approach to make adults take stock of their behaviour and words. We want to capture the attention of the public and support people to parent in healthy ways without inflicting strong feelings of guilt or shame.

“Saying something can mean asking for help yourself or even offering help to someone else. Children will not do this for themselves, so we have to do it for them.”

This year’s campaign will feature a series of hard-hitting adverts featuring young children that will appear from this week in The Royal Gazette, on social media, in supermarkets and on the backs of buses.

Martha Dismont, the charity’s executive director, said that advocating for children was a priority for Family Centre.

“Neglect will leave many children in a position where they lack the confidence to develop in healthy ways,” Ms Dismont said.

“This year’s campaign was chosen to spark individual action. We want to sound a wake-up call to Bermuda that the needs of children are often unintentionally ignored.

“Parents typically act in subconscious ways that reflect their own upbringing, the norms of their family culture and the happenings of the current situations that they are in.

“Therefore, let us all be more conscious about how we treat our children, what we expose them to and how we show them love, care and respect so that we can all actively participate in creating a healthier and safer community for everyone.”

To see Family Centre’s adverts, click on the PDF under “Related Media”