How to make a report
If you are concerned about a child’s safety and welfare, you can make a report via the following means:
- Call the Children’s Authority’s free, 24-hour Hotline 996 or 800-2014
- Complete The Attached Form and send it to the Authority's Registry Division
When making a report, please ensure, whenever possible, that the following information is at hand:
- Nature of the concern
- Address and/or location of the child
- Age of the child (if known)
- Name of the child (If known)
You can choose not to reveal your identity. All reports are treated with strict confidentiality.
Reports on children progress through the following stages:
- Registry: Receiving the report and determining the level of risk
- Investigation: Liaising with persons who interact with the child to better understand the issues surrounding the child.
- Assessment: Evaluating the needs of the child and making a recommendation for the future care and treatment of the child.
- Placement: Making a decision on the most suitable home placement for the child.
- After-care: Implementing the necessary care that was recommended at the assessment stage.
All cases will be investigated by the Authority.
Reports made to the Authority will either be investigated by the Authority or referred to external partner agencies for assistance.
THE INVESTIGATION PROCESS
Once a report of child abuse or mistreatment is brought to the Authority's attention, the investigation process is initiated to substantiate or not substantiate the allegations, with a view to determining whether the child is in need of care and protection and what interventions would be appropriate in the child's best interest.
In order to substantiate a report, the Authority conducts a social investigation which usually involves a home visit that includes interviews with the child's parents and other relatives, a school visit and community enquiries. In some cases, additional investigative work is done to ascertain the facts of the case, so that a fully informed recommendation can be made. At the same time, the criminal investigation is conducted by the Child Protection Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Once the Authority's psycho-social investigation is completed, and the Authority is of the view that the child is in need of care and protection, the Authority, may where appropriate, receive the child into its care in accordance with Section 22(1A) of the Children's Authority Act Chap. 46:10.
The investigative response will always be timely, taking into consideration the level of risk to the child.
Investigation of a report will, among other things, include the following:
- Enquiries at the home of the child which may include interviews with members of the household, the child and neighbours.
- Enquiries at the child’s school, nursery or day-care.
- Removal of a child deemed to be in immediate danger to a safe environment
- Assessing the options available to place the child, with the aim of securing suitable alternative accommodation for a child who may have been at risk in their home. This accommodation may include relatives and other potential guardians.
Cases investigated will be referred to:
- The Child and Family Services Department of the Children’s Authority.
- Assessment Centre for assessment of the child.
Key agencies in the conduct of an investigation
There are a number of agencies that have been serving the needs of children in Trinidad and Tobago for many years. It is therefore important that the Children’s Authority form close alliances with these agencies to ensure the care and protection of children. As such, the Investigation Unit will work closely with the following agencies:
- Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service
The CPU is the arm of the Police Service which was formed to specifically address child protection issues. CPU officers will be attached to each Police Division throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
The Authority is poised to assume a central position in relation to the protection of children in Trinidad and Tobago. In order to do this effectively it is essential that the organisation works closely with the Police when dealing with the following issues:
- Sharing information on children who are in situations where they require protection;
- Removal of children from dangerous situations;
- Implementation of a Court Order which has been obtained concerning a child in a situation where public peace has to be preserved ;
- Visiting children and families who live in ‘high risk’ areas.
- Probation Services Division
The Probation Services Division is responsible for conducting investigations on behalf of the court in varying instances. They prepare probation reports with recommendations for sentencing for child offenders; they also prepare domestic violence, custody, maintenance and access reports with recommendations for children and families who have civil matters pending before the courts.
The Investigation Unit of the Children’s Authority will therefore work closely with Probation Officers to inform critical decisions to be taken in the best interest of the child.
- Student Support Services Division (SSSD)
Social Workers, Behavioural Specialist, Guidance Officers and Special Education Teachers of the Student Support Services Division will collaborate with the Authority with the aim of ensuring that all children in need of care and protection within the school system receive appropriate support and attention. Continuous communication and feedback between staff of both agencies will ensure that actions taken are in the best interest of the child.
Many cases of child abuse, neglect or maltreatment in their severest forms are usually attended to at hospitals, health centres or district health facilities. Such cases are usually referred to Medical or Psychiatric Social Workers for investigation and intervention. The Children’s Authority will work closely with both the Medical and Psychiatric Social Workers in the investigation of cases of abuse which come through the health sector.
- National Family Services Division (NFS)
The National Family Services (NFS) Division of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, is the primary institution that focuses on matters relating to the child and family. It is staffed with professionally trained social workers who assist individuals, couples, families and communities to address issues relating to life crises, domestic/family violence, abuse, marital problems, incest, relationship problems, depression and drug abuse.
Since NFS offers a wide range of services, the Child and Family Services Department of the Children’s Authority may work collaboratively with them to access any of the services that will contribute to the achievement of goals set for the child and family.
The Children’s Authority has engaged the Social Services agencies that fall under the purview of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to conduct joint investigations of all care and protection matters involving children. Processes have been developed with the Children and Family Services Unit, Community Social Services Unit (CSSU), Student Support Services Unit (SSSU) and the Medical and Psychiatric Social Workers in Tobago.