Children now have a round-the-clock helpline of their own.
The FMH Sandy Lane Charitable Trust Help Line was launched today to deliver direct help to children up to age 18.
UNICEF Champion for Children Faith Marshall-Harris said the hotline would receive calls of distress and concern from children and about children, and calls for help from children, their parents, guardians, extended families, neighbours, communities, schools, churches, and anyone concerned about children’s welfare.
So far, 30 social workers have volunteered to man the 24-hour helpline to listen, empathise and counsel if needed, or refer for more in-depth counselling, Marshall-Harris told the launch at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
She said the social workers would also be required to arrange for and provide direct aid where possible, and advise which agency could assist and make the necessary referrals.
Marshall-Harris also indicated that the Help Line trustees would intervene and negotiate with authorities in stressful situations in the best interests of children, rally with children and parents for children’s rights and advocate on their behalf in any and every forum available, and host parenting workshops.
The lawyer said: “The idea is to help in whatever way possible. But the help line is not just a hotline. It has an outreach component, so we are going to look after the children of inmates so we can stop the cycle of those children following in the footsteps of parents. Sometimes all that they need is the
supervision, the help, the mentoring to stop that cycle.
“We are also going to help children who are suffering loss and bereavement as a result of gun violence or any other bereavement. And then obviously, we are going to just help children on a day-to-day basis, whether it is a feeding programme, a breakfast programme, or whatever comes to our attention.
Minister of Elder Affairs and People Empowerment Cynthia Forde praised the initiative, which she said was timely to help meet the needs of the island’s children, particularly those who are less fortunate.
Forde said she was pleased that the hotline promised to focus on critical areas, including poverty reduction, education, health, children at risk of abuse and drug interdiction.
The minister declared: “The hotline promises to work with the necessary agencies, in order to rescue children who are abused and neglected and will teach children about abuse and the necessary steps in reporting that abuse.
“It is everybody’s business to look out for these young boys and girls and give them hope. We can do more, but we shut away in our castles and we forget from whence we have
“We have to get back to it because the crime and violence are creeping towards us and we have to stymie that as well as make sure that Barbados is the safest place on the earth again.
“We can get back there, but it calls for a culmination of everybody coming together in a concerted effort to change Barbados for the better and change our children, despite whatever status they are from.”