‘Caring for children is a joint responsibility’

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians must be the eyes and ears to create a more protective environment for children and prevent incidents of abuse, say child rights advocates.

Child Rights, Innovation and Betterment Foundation co-chair Srividhya Ganapathy called on the public to intervene when they suspect something amiss, saying that the community must play an active role in the prevention of child abuse.

She said the mechanism to report incidents of child abuse is already there but many either lacked the awareness or were afraid that they would be exposed as informers and get into trouble with the suspect, who could be a family member, relative or neighbour.

“Many people do not know that they can report cases of suspected child abuse, for example if it’s happening in their neighbourhood,” Srividhya said.

“They can do so anonymously to Talian Kasih and an officer from the Social Welfare Department will check on the situation.”

Srividhya added that the government should do more to educate and raise awareness among the public on how they could play their part.

On curbing abuse at childcare centres, Srividhya said the government should put in strict measures to ensure the registration of every childcare centre, especially informal home-based ones.

“Only when they are registered, can they be regulated and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will be able to keep an eye on them,” she said.

“The smaller childcare centres, such as those run in neighbourhoods, are essential ... and so, these centres must be supported and be under the ministry’s fold and regulated,” she added.

Besides aiding in the registration, Srividhya said the government should ensure every employee is provided with basic childcare training such as the Permata Early Childhood Care and Education Course (KAP) mandated by the government.

“More can be done to support working mothers. Reward companies with better tax breaks for setting up crèches or childcare centres onsite.

“Provide women with subsidies to set up a home office and provide employers with tax benefits if they allow parents to work from home,” Srividhya said.

As for abuse happening in centre settings, groups are calling on the government to make the Child Protection Policy (CPP) mandatory for every childcare centre and all childcare personnel must undergo CPP training.

Childline Foundation project director Datin Wong Poai Hong said this is because CPP requires staff to be screened, to be qualified and to put into place safeguards whether physical or otherwise on their premises.

Part of the CPP training also includes understanding the rights of children to survival, protection, development and participation, behaviour protocols and communication with and to children, flow charts for emergencies, minor and major accidents as well as a basic understanding of the laws related to children, said Wong.

“It is untenable that operators and staff who run a taska do not have any knowledge of legal requirements and penalties if those are violated,” she said, adding that CCTVs are only hardware.

“What we need to work on is the software, which is the upskilling and professionalisation of the childcare personnel.”

Operators should be held accountable for a child’s well-being and safety, Wong said.

“So, it’s better to implement the CPP that is practised by all key duty-bearers who work with children.

“In this case, it’s the operators, management, staff and part-time workers, as well as parents, who must sign off on the CPP, which should be part of the Parents Handbook,” Wong said.

Association of Registered Childcare Providers president Anisa Ahmad also said the CPP should be in place at every childcare centre, adding that her association had also applied to the Social Welfare Department to conduct training on it.

To beef up the protection of children in centre settings, Anisa said there was a need for initiatives to provide childcare personnel with opportunities for upskilling and professional development.

“Besides the KAP course, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours should be implemented for all childcare centre operators, child educators and childminders so that they could upskill,” she added.

“Ongoing short courses are needed for all educators, operators and supervisors.”

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