It appears as if the Welfare Division has its hand tied when it comes to dealing with certain aspects of the abuse of minors in Dominica, especially the criminal part of the problem.
Coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Unit, Jemma Azille-Lewis, said the Division deals only with the social aspect of child protection, contrary to what many people might think.
She spoke this week after several explicit videos, purportedly showing minors being abused, were widely circulated on social media, prompting calls by many for the Division to do more.
But Azille-Lewis explained why the Welfare Division cannot do a whole lot to address the matter especially from a criminal perspective.
“We are not the police,” she explained. “Sometimes persons mix us up with what the police do in terms of arresting and charging and bringing matters before the court for prosecution. The Welfare Division is responsible for the social aspect of child protection. We ensure that persons are educated, programs and activities are implemented.”
She went on to say the Division deals with matters such as when there is a need for family intervention from a social aspect and it does the social inquiry aspect of child protection.
“In terms of the criminal aspect, this is left to the police…” Azille-Lewis said.
She added that certain things have to be done before a child is removed from the home.
“We can remove children from certain homes but it’s a process where that matter has to go through the court,” she remarked. “We need police intervention to assist us in those matters. It is not what you see on television … it is much more than that. Certain laws have to be in place for you to be able to implement certain activities.
She said that the Division can put children in homes and alternate care but there is a process and that process has to ensure that the law is followed.
“And it is a matter that has to be brought before the court,” Azille-Lewis said.