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Public Defender’s Statement on Drawbacks in the Detection/Prevention of and Response to Child Abuse

The Public Defender of Georgia is responding to the death of a 4-year-old child, the alleged cause of which was violence.

The above is not just a single tragic event; child abuse is a widespread problem in the country. This particular case and many other cases clearly indicate the country’s improper system of child care and prevention of child abuse. The State has failed to effectively fulfill the commitment undertaken by it, i.e. to protect children from violence and ill-treatment. The Public Defender has indicated the shortcomings in the child protection system and the ways of its improvement in a number of reports and recommendations, though no effective steps have yet been taken.

Results of monitoring and study of individual cases by the Public Defender's Office show that the steps taken by the State against child abuse are often delayed and ineffective. Timely detection of cases, as well as urgent implementation of protection measures is problematic. The number of social workers and psychologists is still critically low; consequently, their involvement, qualified support or effective protection measures, including cooperation among relevant departments, are not enough.

Responsible individuals are still not properly aware of child protection referral procedures and thus cannot fully realize their duties.

Each case of domestic violence and child neglect should be referred to the LEPL Social Service Agency in a timely manner and the application of restraining andprotective orders should be promoted. Systematic and effective monitoring is also necessary. In turn, the LEPL Social Service Agency should take victims of domestic violence and neglect to a safe environment in a timely manner and provide them with appropriate services.

At the same time, it is very important to focus attention on the wrong stereotypes relating to upbringing of children, which negatively affects the protection of children from any form of abuse. Everyone should realize that it is their civic responsibility to respond to the alleged cases of child abuse, be it in the street, neighborhood or relatives’ families, and inform the relevant agencies in case of possessing such information.

A few days ago, another child died when collecting scrap due to poor social conditions and alleged neglect. Such cases need to be deeply analyzed by the relevant agencies and they cannot be assessed as a disaster, since the tragedy has a cause that is called child poverty. State programmes cannot properly ensure the protection of families from poverty; even satisfaction of child’s basic needs remains a problem.

Efficiency and preventive nature of social programmes is particularly problematic. One example of this is the Subprogramme for Urgent Assistance to Families (with children) in Crisis. Although this programme aims to ensure timely satisfaction of families’ urgent needs, involvement in the programme is often delayed for months or years.

The Public Defender urges the Government of Georgia to take immediate measures to reform the existing system of child care and prevention of child abuse. The State should undertake responsibility and create a strong social service mechanism, as well as effective system of responding to the cases of violence.

In addition, it is important that the measures taken by the responsible individuals in the above-mentioned case be studied; it should be analyzed why they failed to protect the child from violence. The Public Defender will study the measures taken by the State within her mandate and will evaluate their effectiveness.

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