A historic milestone for the children of the Turks and Caicos Islands took place on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, at the Premier’s Office Conference room, Providenciales. The occasion was the official signing ceremony for the Child Protection Multi Agency Protocols –Reporting, Managing and Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect, Working Together in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In addition to the official and public commitment of stakeholder agencies to work together in the interest of children, the signing of the Child Protection Protocols brought the Turks and Caicos Islands in line with our sister Overseas Territory Countries including Montserrat, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands who have all passed and signed their Child Protection Protocols, and by extension, attest the Turks and Caicos Islands commitment to compliance with UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, to which the Turks and Caicos Islands is signatory.
Earlier this year, the Foreign Commonwealth Office of the UK, through the H. E. the Governor’s Office engaged a Social Work Advisor, who specializes in Child Safeguarding to work with the Department of Social Development, Miss Samantha Dunn. Miss Dunn worked tirelessly for the past few months on incorporating relevant provisions of the Children Care and Protection Ordinance 2015 and updating the 2008 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNCICEF) sponsored draft version of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Child Protection protocol.
The Protocol is critical as it:
- Helps to establish standards for points of contact, methods of contact and purpose of contact between relevant agencies
- Helps to define professional roles and responsibilities, and,
- Helps to ensure consistency in the way cases are handled.
- The Protocol helps to improve the response of stakeholder to child abuse cases by:
- Defining the steps that must be completed at each stage
- Having concrete and practical procedures for handling special issues
- Protecting agencies from allegations of discrimination in their handling of cases
In their brief remarks Hon Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson highlighted the significance of government agencies in protecting and safeguarding children and stated that; “The Turks and Caicos Islands is committed to ensuring that a Child Protection Unit is established within the Turks and Caicos Islands to address such matter in addition to supporting the resources needed to effectively implement.”
Likewise, Honorable Vaden Williams, Minister for Home Affairs Transportation and Communication, noted that the protocol is communicating several messages to the society and world but paramount among those messages “the protocol signing signals clearly how we want our children to be treated in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Participating directly in the ceremony were Premier Cartwright-Robinson who did the honor of untying the red ribbon of the protocol document, students from primary schools throughout the Islands who presented the Signatories with a pen for signing and a colorful inflated “Thank you” balloon, and signatories who signed the protocol on behalf of stakeholder sectors.
- Signatories to the protocol were as follows.
- Honorable Vaden Delroy Williams, Minister of Home Affairs
- Honorable Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health
- Honorable Karen Malcolm, Minister of Education
- Mr. James Smith, Commissioner of Police
- Mr. Michael Dillon, Acting Attorney General
The event would have been less meaningful without the rendition of a song by students from the SNAP Center, as well as the presence of teachers and students from the various public schools, staff of the Department of Social Development, Domestic Violence and Sexual Offense Team, Director of Special Needs Unit, and representatives from the Ministry and Department of Health and Education.
Her Excellency, Deputy Governor Anya Williams, Hon. Goldray Ewing, Minister of Infrastructure Housing and Planning, Hon. Ralph Higgs, Minister of Tourism Environment Heritage and Culture, Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Tanya Lobban-Jackson, Permanent Secretary for Education, Mr. Wesley Clerveaux, Human Rights Commissioner, Ms. Sabrina Green and Consultant to the Social Development Department Mrs. Doreen Quelch-Missick all supported the event through their presence.
In bringing the vote of thanks Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mrs. Clara Gardiner OBE recognized individuals and organizations for their contribution over the years leading up to the final draft and reiterated the highlighted the prominence and protection of a child’s human rights, in a changing world.
It was a special moment that will remain in the hearts and minds of all those who were a part of this occasion.
The protocol was approved by Cabinet on June 30th 2017.