Schools help SPC deal with child abuse cases | Guam News

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Social workers in public schools work with child protection services to close the gap between reported and actual cases of abuse.

“Our social workers to get referrals, we actually worked very closely with CPS,” said Doris Bukikosa, administrator of the Culture and School Climate Engagement Division of the Guam Ministry of Education. “They had a lot of older references that they had to catch up on, so we worked very closely with them on some of those references.”

School social workers have helped the CPS reopen and re-establish cases or verify any specific situation requiring additional attention, she noted during a GDOE community contribution session on Thursday.

“We are very aware of an increase in situations or cases, but not necessarily reported,” added Bukikosa.

She noted that with students now back in classrooms, teachers, counselors and social workers need to see “how students are reacting or reacting to the school site,” and then they need to figure out how to go. forward to help students.

Bukikosa, who oversees GDOE school counselors, coordinates efforts between social workers and community program assistants.

Various government officials and advocacy organizations have noted that although reports of abuse have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been indications that the abuse has been underreported.

“I think professionals agree that child abuse has not decreased, but we definitely felt that when children especially in elementary school didn’t have physical access to teachers, they didn’t report because a lot of reports go. to the teacher. These kids love their teachers, they respect their teachers, they tell the teachers what’s going on, ”said Karen Carpenter, grandmother of high school student Simon Sanchez and executive director of Victim Advocates Reaching Out (VARO).

Teachers are often the lifeline for these students.

For about 18 months now, most students have mostly attended classes virtually, which means they don’t see their teachers or school counselors as often as they did before the pandemic.

In legislation introduced by Senator Mary Torres in September, the CPS reported it had 500 children in Guam’s foster care system, up from 270 in May 2019 to the director of the Department of Community Affairs. youth, Melanie Brennan, who oversees CPA.

GDOE officials have asked Carpenter for his opinion on how to tackle child abuse and get them to open up.

“The best way is to have more contact, more time with their teachers, and then they will have this opportunity to open up again because online is not going to do that,” Carpenter said.

School level education

GDOE officials agreed and noted the need to step up efforts to educate at the school level.

“The teachers have the materials and provided the training, but I think it’s something that we can continue to strengthen. It is there, it can be learned. said GDOE Program and Education Superintendent Joseph Sanchez.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Erika Cruz added that more had been done to tackle abuse, such as partnering with the Guam judiciary to provide students with knowledge of local laws relating to minors through the “Play” program. according to the rules “.

“There is a character education program that all colleges should be implementing,” said Cruz, reiterating that school administrators, counselors and teachers tend to be the lifeline for students. “What is important is to educate our students so that they know that what is happening to them is not their fault.”

Cruz said the department has a number of programs in place, such as the Lani-Kate program. The Lani-Kate task force was established under Public Law 31-97, it focuses on the prevention of sexual assault and child sexual abuse through the “My Body Is Special: A Childhood Prevention Program. sexual abuse ”.

“They have to know and remember that if they are afraid they have to contact someone they trust and most of the time it is at the school level, whether it is a teacher or administrator, ”said Cruz.

GDOE officials reiterated that when it comes to reporting abuse, they have an open door policy where students can feel safe to share their struggles and issues.

Once GDOE is informed of any type of abuse, the relevant authorities will be contacted to further investigate.


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