Watch for signs of child abuse: UAE tells parents

The Ministries of Interior and Social Affairs reveal the results of the initiative to identify child abuse cases

A top official of the Ministry of Interior has called upon all concerned, especially nursery supervisors, to play their role to the fullest in terms of identifying and reporting any signs of abuse against children, to whom they are very close.

Major-General Nasser Lakhrebani Al Nuaimi, Secretary-General of the Office of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, pointed out that nursery supervisors are major partners in the prevention and protection processes, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Major-General Al Nuaimi also urged parents to protect their children from any kind of psychological and physical abuse. He underscored the importance of providing children with family care and emotional support, to produce a healthy society, free of social problems that could compromise its security and stability.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Ministry of Social Affairs have revealed the positive and fruitful results that the joint initiative to identify child abuse cases and the appropriate response process have achieved.

The initiative was launched as part of a training programme held at the Abu Dhabi Police Officers’ Club. It targeted 258 administrative staff and nursery supervisors across the UAE, with a view to raising awareness on child abuse identification mechanism and setting up a system to report any violence against children at nurseries.

The participants in the training programme recommended enacting policies for the protection of children in all nurseries and schools at the state level. They also urged to review criteria for granting licenses to open nurseries and they include the following: child protection policies; and attending the special training programme for child protection held by the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Centre in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs for the top management in nurseries and all workers in nurseries to qualify them in the area of child protection.

They also stressed the importance of implementing inspection procedures, which provides for checking the criminal background of any person working in the child supervision or care in nurseries and schools.

On the same note, the participants called upon the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Centre to adopt child protection draft policies in schools and nurseries across the UAE. These policies would set the standards to be developed by nurseries and schools. Moreover, they stressed the need of acquainting all nurseries and schools cadre with these policies, and develop a training plan to meet the needs of nurseries and schools.

Major-General Al Nuaimi lauded the coordination and cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs in the application of this initiative successfully. “The Ministry is endeavouring to implement preventive initiatives to protect the child similar to this initiative at the State level, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the partners of the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Centre from local and international organisations,” he said.

He confirmed that innocent children who get abused could be storing up problems to society for the future. “This calls for concerted efforts to avoid such occurrences, by implementing all child protection agreements and conventions, and even remove children from their parents’ care, if all protection attempts fail,” he noted.

He underscored the need to identify the causes of physical, sexual or emotional abuse against children at nurseries, and to set up the appropriate emotional response in order to integrate children back into society to pursue a normal life. He stressed that “early prevention and treatment positively impact the emotional state of abused children and their future".

Major-General Al Nuaimi also pointed out that the “Wadeema’s Law” will provide the relevant entities with the authority to handle child abuse cases, thus reinforcing the Ministry of Interior’s role, which will include direct intervention in addition to protection and prevention. “Some individuals still ignore the basic components of a healthy family; not to mention the common misconceptions, that children are a means of entertainment,” he continued.

For his part, Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Mohammad Al Shimmari, Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Centre, praised the positive and significant recommendations reached by the participants in the training programme, and he said: “The Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Centre is ready to cooperate with relevant authorities with regard to reporting any signs of abuse against children the abuse in nurseries or in our society.” Moreover, he noted that prevention is the best way to address such risks through the theoretical and practical knowledge received by trainees at this session under the supervision of specialists.

Al Shimmari also praised the role of nursery supervisors in identifying the first signs of abuse.  He noted that children spend more time at the nurseries than they do with their families. This requires furthering cooperation with nursery supervisors, given that child protection requires concerted efforts from all relevant entities.

He also expressed his regret to see some conservative societies still covering up cases of sexual abuse against children. He added: “There are still untold abuse cases against children, despite the tireless calls from relevant authorities on the need to identify and report such crimes to avoid their recurrence and protect children as is the case in developed countries that made great strides in this area.”

In the same context, Dr. Jonathan McCauley, Strategic Advisor and Social Counselor at the Child Protection Center at the Ministry of Interior, said that the ministry gives top priority to child protection. He indicated that abuse is not only physical; noting that other types of abuse include the risks caused by reckless driving, parents’ negligence, sending children in elevators unaccompanied, and failure to secure balconies which may cause children to fall to their death, among other things.  He also stressed the need to boost preventive measures and efforts in this regard.

For her part, Moza Salem Al Shoomi, Director of the Child Department at the Ministry of Social Affairs and member of the Ministry of Interior’s Higher Committee for Child Protection, praised the coordination, cooperation, and mutual organization with the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Center to carry out the initiative. She said: “This initiative has achieved the desired goals within the strategic partnership with the Ministry of Interior, and is a means to achieve the Ministry of Social Affairs’ strategic goal to guarantee social rights and empower social integration.”

Concluding, she emphasised that the initiative is an extension to future initiatives that aim to raise awareness among nursery supervisors and qualify them to identify cases of abuse, notice any behavioral change and avoid problems at the right time.

The results

The tactical expert, Sanjana Bhardwaj highlighted the results of the training programme which lasted 41 days. She said that the trainees took a set of notes and results that indicated the lack of a policy for child protection in all nurseries and schools. She also pointed out that the majority of employees at nurseries and schools did not receive any training in the area of child protection, and most of them are not aware of their duties in this field. She indicated that plenty of nurseries and schools face problems in reporting their doubts about the cases of neglect or abuse a child might face to the competent authorities.

“Trainees have noticed that when parents face nurseries by expressing their doubts in what threatens the child, they move their children into another nursery without making a real discussion about finding the best and appropriate ways to solve the problem, with the help of social experts or those concerned with child protection. A total of 35 per cent trainees have faced difficulties or problems in expressing their fears and 9 per cent of participants abstained from responding to this question,” she added.

For her part, Lieutenant Wafaa Ibrahim Al Awar, from the Child Protection Center at the Ministry of Interior, said: “The course has achieved many results, where participants were introduced to several types of assaults against children and the impact of abuse and violence on children. They became able to identify the key factors that contribute to abusing children or neglecting them. They were also briefed on their role in reporting such cases and they have become attuned to the importance of applying the policies and procedures related to child protection in their workplaces.”

She added: “The course has covered several topics namely; identifying cases of violence against children and responding to child abuse cases and communicating with the competent authorities such as the Ministry of Interior Child Protection Center and police stations to report dangerous situations”.

She also noted that the course included 14 groups over 41 training days with a total of 615 hours of training, and targeted employees in nurseries at the state level; pointing out that the training course included 258 trainees divided as follows: 41 from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), 214 from nurseries, three managers from the following entities (Early Years Educational Services Middle East (Eyes), the Arabian Child, Adec.

According to the courses’ performance indicators, 98.45 of the trainees have shown their readiness to hold educational lectures aimed at raising awareness among employees at nurseries or schools; 86.43 of the trainees have confirmed their willingness to hold educational lectures to raise awareness among parents; 64 per cent of trainees have applied the child protection policy; and 35 per cent of them have faced difficulties or problems in reporting their fears.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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