Police need child psychiatrist

| 22/01/2009

(CNS): Having dealt with five cases of child abuse on very young children last year, the Family Support Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) says that Cayman now needs to employ the services of a full time child psychiatrist. It is believed a qualified professional would be able to support child victims of abuse during the evidence gathering stages, help with securing a prosecution through expert testimony, and most important of all, offer comprehensive treatment to these young victims.

Although the FSU has the support of a number of counsellors, specialist social workers and psychiatrists who work with adults, Inspector Claudia Brady of the FSU says that having a dedicated professional child psychiatrist employed permanently on the island would be of immense benefit to both the unit and the young children in Cayman that have been abused and psychologically damaged by their horrific experiences.

“With a psychiatrist specialising in child psychology we would have access to someone that could help us go forward with a case entirely in the best interests of the child and help describe the long term treatment needs for any child that has suffered abuse to ensure they can to return some kind of normalcy,” said Insp. Brady.

She also noted the importance of such professionals in helping prosecute what are very sensitive cases without further traumatising the young victims. “Given the problems there are associated with very young children giving evidence in such cases, a dedicated child psychiatrist could explain the behaviour of children in such circumstances to the court, i.e. why these young victims may tell the police different things at different times or recant their evidence, and explain how we can tell when they are telling the truth. A professional would be able to interpret child behaviour based on professional analysis and research,” Insp. Brady explained.

She noted that the police can only present the evidence and the facts; they cannot interpret or try to explain why they might think a child has done or said certain things. The practice of using child psychiatrists is common in other countries such as the UK and the United states, where it has been shown to assist the police in successfully prosecuting cases.

Dr Mark Lockhart, the psychiatrist at Chrissie Tomlinson Hospital, agreed with Insp. Brady over the need for a specialist psychiatrist and confirmed that dealing with adults is different to working with young children. However, he went further and said that Cayman is in real need of a specialist child psychiatric unit.

“I agree it would certainly be beneficial to have a child psychiatrist here on island in the same way that we have paediatricians as well as general parcticitioners. In the same way that medical cases present differently in children and adults, the same is true of psychiatric disorders,” said Dr Lockhart. “However, we really need a dedicated psychiatric unit for children with not just a child psychiatrist but the necessary support staff as well.”

He said that children are not treated in adult medical wards and they should not be brought to adult mental health units either as it can be extremely frightening for them, especially very young children.

“In cases where children have been abused, we need to not only treat them but keep them in a place of safety, and with a child psychiatric unit we can develop a treatment programme as well as keep them safe,” he added.

Political candidate for Bodden Town, Sandra Catron, an advocate regarding the many issues surrounding child abuse, said that as a community Cayman needs to re-examine its commitment to protecting the children.

“We vocalize and say one thing but how committed are we really if we cannot see the need to have the full rights of children protected?" she asked. “I am in full support of having a professional representative for children in any court proceedings. The professional would be responsible for making sure that the interest of children is paramount in any situation that they are involved in. In particular, with child abuse – when children are at their most vulnerable they need an independent, unbiased professional to address their needs and to put them back on solid footing so that they can be healthy members of our community."

Since establishing a web-based child offender’s register, Catron has made a significant contribution to raising what has long been a taboo subject in Cayman. Facing criticisms for her campaign to name and shame convicted offenders because the revelation of an offender in such a small community as Cayman often makes it clear who the victim is, Catron argues that in a misplaced attempt to protect victims, Cayman has historically protected the perpetrators as well.

 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am in full support of having a professional representative for children in any court proceedings. The professional would be responsible for making sure that the interest of children is paramount in any situation that they are involved in. In particular, with child abuse – when children are at their most vulnerable they need an independent, unbiased professional to address their needs and to put them back on solid footing so that they can be healthy members of our community.

  2. Anonymous says:

    We need this! Seems like a no brainer to me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It has always been my opinion that the number of cases dealt with thus far is just the tip of the ice berg and that unfortunately there will be much work for a child psychiatrist here in Cayman.

    With teachers and others in the community by law required to report suspected cases of child abuse there will be much activity within that department of the RCIP.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am disturbed that the RCIP  is  realizing at such a late stage, that they need a child Psychiatrist, with all the problems with our Youth.   I am happy though, that they have acknowledged it now.  

    PLEASEEEEEE  Cayman Islands Government, invest in educating CAYMANIANS  to deal with our SOCIAL PROBLEMS. 

    I take this opportunity to draw to our Minister of Education attention, that we need a Social WorkerDegree program offered by UCCI & CIVIL SERVICE COLLEGE.