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Facilitator/trainer Charmaine Miller from the Family Resource Centre leads the Child Protection Training with all Government Year 5 Teachers.

Published 22nd September 2016, 5:27pm

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands – A group consisting of Government teachers, deputy principals, counsellors and pastoral support workers recently underwent Child Protection (CP) training as part of the Ministry of Education’s continued efforts to ensure that its policies, procedures and practices are in line with international standards as it relates to the safety of children. 171 individuals completed and were awarded certificates for Modules 2 and 3 of the Second Step Child Protection Unit issued by the Committee for Children in the US.

Module 2 prepares adults working with primary school-aged children to recognise indicators of abuse or neglect; respond in a supportive way; and report abuse or violations of school policies, while Module 3 trains teachers specifically to teach student lessons; discuss unsafe or sexually abusive situations with confidence and engage families on the subject.

“Sexual abuse and neglect are real concerns that need to be addressed by the community, especially when the victims are our most innocent and vulnerable citizens – our children,” said Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister for Education. “The Child Protection Strategy is being updated and adapted in an effort to ensure that schools remain vigilant in preventing and responding to incidences of abuse.”

To that end the Safe Environment and Staff Safeguarding policies were created and received final approval from Education Council in August 2016. The Safe Environment policy provides guidance in an effort to prevent situations in which children are at an increased risk for abuse because of the physical characteristics of a building. Examples of ensuring a safe environment at a school contained in the Policy include: classroom windows should not be obscured; bright lighting in all areas; adequate playground and non-classroom supervision (for example, hallways, stairwells); periodic walk-throughs of the building and its grounds to ensure there are no unidentified persons on site; and requiring that all visitors, volunteers, and contractors sign in at the main office and wear a visitor badge identifying them at all times. The Staff Safeguarding policy outlines clear expectations for interactions between adults and children, explicitly identifying acceptable and appropriate behaviour for all adults working with children.

“The goal is to have all staff, including specialist teachers, assistants, librarians and executive officers, receive the Module 2 training of the Second Step Child Protection Unit before the end of the academic year,” said Minister Rivers. Secondary teachers already receive the mandatory Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children training – the 5 steps to prevent child sexual abuse. In the long term, it is expected that training will also be provided for all support staff such as Occupational and Speech and Language Therapists, as well as all outsourced staff (e.g. bus wardens, security officers, canteen workers, groundskeepers). Educators in Cayman Brac will be trained in October 2016 and the Ministry is working to determine standards for the YMCA staff and ensuring Child Protection practices are utilised in the Government afterschool programmes.

Chief Officer for Education Mr. Christen Suckoo explained that the Ministry is also altering its hiring procedures to better screen out potential abusers and include Child Protection considerations.

“Asking Child Protection questions in all employment interviews; having incoming staff sign acknowledging receipt and agreement to follow Child Protection policies; utilising the US Sex Offender Registry to screen applicants; continuing to use the UK Criminal Records Bureau check; and expanding the social media check are all part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to protect our students,” said Mr. Suckoo who welcomed the educators to the training held at the Prospect Primary School and stressed its importance in ensuring that all students are safe, especially in their schools.

“This training is revolutionary for education professionals because, although talking to kids about sexual abuse is one of the best ways to prevent it, parents may not know how to begin the conversation or what to say,” explained facilitator/trainer Charmaine Miller, Acting Programme Coordinator at the Family Resource Centre. “Therefore, the Ministry of Education has taken the initiative to train its educators so they can help kids learn personal safety skills at school. In a world where sexual abuse is so prevalent, understanding what types of physical behaviours are okay and not okay, and how to talk about behaviour that makes them uncomfortable or afraid are unfortunate but necessary discussions that need to be had with our young students. Teachers are being trained to do just that.”

The Ministry of Education partnered with The Family Resource Centre, The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, The Special Needs Foundation and the Health Services Authority to conduct the training which was organised by Camila Muniz Ferreira, the Ministry of Education’s Programme Manager for At-Risk Youth, and Barbara Peace-Ebanks, Senior School Improvement Officer & Child Protection Officer for the Department of Education Services. The Ministry of Education would also like to thank Help for Children for covering a large portion of the costs of the Child Protection Unit materials used in this training.