Belize: Services for and protection available to abused children (1995 - March 2002)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||23 April 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||BLZ38546.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Belize: Services for and protection available to abused children (1995 - March 2002), 23 April 2002, BLZ38546.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be1424.html [accessed 3 March 2015]|
Section 2 of the U.S. Department of State's Country Reports 2001 provides information on the governmental structure in place to provide services to abused children in Belize (2002). In Belize's 7 February 1997 State Report to the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child, government forms of assistance to children and their families where there is neglect or maltreatment are characterized as "various but limited" (para. 134). This report also notes the general lack of trained personnel and support services to improve Belize's compliance with articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ibid., para. 10).
According to this report, the government operates a Child Care Centre in Belize City, which can accommodate 24 children, for children who are "abandoned or in need of special care and protection" (ibid., para. 92). Children are accommodated at the Child Care Centre when temporary removal from their household is required (ibid.). The government also operates the Princess Royal Youth Hostel and the Girls Hostel, both in Belize City, capable of accommodating 40 and 16 girls respectively (ibid., para. 11).
According to this report, there are also various non-governmental institutions for children in need of care including the Acres of Love Children's Home in Toledo District, Kings Children's Home in Belmopan, and Milhollen Children's Home, Ontario Village in Cayo District (ibid., para. 95). As of early 1997, the government had "recently commenced providing limited assistance to these institutions" and noted that the "standards in such facilities vary significantly, reflecting the need for the Government to give effect to the establishment of standards of care ... " (ibid.).
The Director of the National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NOPCA), in a 12 March 2002 telephone interview, described the work of her organization as largely "preventative" and "proactive," focusing on education, advocacy and research. According to the Director, NOPCA works to enhance parenting skills, educate children about child abuse and their rights, and enhance child participation in their own empowerment, among other things (ibid.). As such, NOPCA does not provide services to abused children but attempts to stop abuse from happening in the first place. At times, however, NOPCA finds itself in the position of "service provider," particularly when the organization is working in the districts of Belize where there is "a complete dearth of services available" (ibid.). In these instances, NOPCA will act as an intake agency and refer the child or children to the Family Services Division, which is ultimately responsible for intervention and investigation (ibid.).
According to the Director of NOPCA, the demand for services for abused children in Belize far outstrips the supply of services, and the few homes there are for abused children are always at or filled beyond capacity (ibid.). Further, according to the Director, the Family Services Division operates within resource constraints (ibid.).
A 14 January 2002 article attributed to the newspaper The Reporter, found on a Website that offers general news about Belize, reported that in January 2002 the Government of Belize signed a statutory instrument to amend Section 154 of the Families and Children Act "to give the law teeth." Changes to the law include provisions which would make it mandatory for police to enter in court a medical certificate as part of the evidence in a child abuse case (ibid.). According to this report:
The law now requires that medical professionals make a thorough physical and psychological evaluation of the injuries, and of the medical treatment required, in a case of child abuse. The new law also protects the privacy of a child testifying in case of child abuse: the child will testify from behind a screen or other means of concealment to ensure privacy (ibid.).
Further, according to this report, the new law makes it mandatory that all cases of child abuse be reported to the Ministry of Human Development and Women (ibid.). The Reporter stated that this last point is necessary so that "several incidents in recent history" do not repeat themselves "where abuse cases that came before the courts resulted in little more than a slap on the wrist for the offender because of improper or inadequate procedure by the prosecution" (ibid.). Information on the current status of the amendment referred to in this article was not found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, DC.
National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NOPCA) [Belize City]. 12 March 2002. Telephone conversation with Director.
The Reporter [Belize]. 14 January 2002. "GOB Toughens Law to Protect Children."
United Nations, Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). 7 February 1997. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention. Initial reports of States parties due in 1992: Addendum: Belize.
Additional Sources Consulted
World News Connection (WNC)
Attempts to obtain more recent information from the Department of Human Services were unsuccessful.
Internet Sites including:
Belize Legal Information Network Online
Human Rights Watch
International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN)
United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF)