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Stabroek News

Spare the rod?
published: Sunday | April 22, 2007

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

SPARE THE rod and spoil the child, so the adage goes. But in Jamaica, many parents and guardians still wield the strap, and fists, to get their children in line.

Rose Robinson-Hall, a social worker, is project coordinator with the CAMP (Child Abuse Mitigation Project) Bustamante which is based at the Bustamante Children's Hospital in St. Andrew. It was launched in January 2004 to help address an increase in child neglect.

Children, from age one to 12, are treated at CAMP Bustamante.

Mrs. Robinson-Hall told Outlook that it is difficult to gauge the level of child abuse in Jamaica. She said, however, that there has been a steady number of cases coming in to CAMP Bustamante since it opened its doors three years ago.

"On average, we receive about 25 cases of violence-related injuries every month, and most of those injuries are intentional," she said. "Forty-nine per cent of those injuries were inflicted at home."

According to CAMP Bustamante data, 90 per cent of reported physical abuse result from children being punished by parents, or from adults known to the children. Roughly 28 per cent of the injuries, Mrs. Robinson-Hall said, were facial, to the head or neck.

She noted that several parents believe in laying down the rules the old-fashioned way.

"In some of the cases, parents administer corporal punishment as a way of helping children to learn ... You either beat badness out of a child or you beat good sense into a child," she explained. "They think it's a way of shaping children."

At CAMP Bustamante, a social worker and a clinical psychologist help monitor the progress of abusive parents and their abused children. At the Child Guidance Clinic, also located at the hospital's compound, the patient's mental health is evaluated; if analysed as unstable, therapy is recommended.

Mrs. Robinson-Hall said there is a positive amid the many cases of abuse. Many parents accompany their children to counselling sessions.

"It's not unusual to see parents being very remorseful about getting carried away about punishing the child," she said. "If it's a crisis situation, we visit the home and do risk assessment to see what are the risks to the child's safety."

Mrs. Robinson-Hall says repeat cases are rare at CAMP Bustamante - a mere one per cent. She credits the home-based counselling programme for this.

More Outlook



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