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An Analysis of the Nature and Extent of Institutionalization of Children in Guyana

ChildLinK  Inc.  is  arguably  among  the  most  effective  Non-  Governmental  Organizations (NGOs)  in  Guyana.    Perhaps  its  strength  lies  in  the  gradual  evolution  from  an  international organization  to  a  local  not-for-profit  company.  In  the  process  ChildLinK  developed  a culture,  which  recognizes  the  importance  of  research  in  supporting  strategic  planning,  factbased  interventions  and  managing  for  results.  ChildLinK  continues  to  have  these  values  at the core of its work,  including  this research  on Institutional Care in Guyana. A  ChildLinK  project  established  the  Guyana  Coalition  for  Children  (GCC)  a  body  comprised of  six  organizations*  working  with  children  and  youth  in  Guyana.  Part of  the  GCC’s  mandate is  to  strengthen  capacity  for  a  coordinated  response  to  child  protection  through  public education  and  advocacy.  GCC  recognizes  that  there  are  concerns  with  respect  to  the alternative  care  system  in  Guyana,  and  a  lack  of  data  to  effectively  address  them.  The concerns  include,  among  others,  the  reasons  children  are  placed  in  care,  the  care  they receive  in  institutions,  the  length  of  time  they  spend  in  care  and  the  lack  of  a  structured  reintegration  process.  Of  particular  concern  are  teenage  girls  who  are  most  at  risk  of  sexual violence.  This  research  was  commissioned  with  support  from  the  European  Union  and Family  for  Every  Child  to study  these  issues. 

Child Neglect in Guyana

This  position  paper commissioned by ChildLinK sets Guyana, about understand phenomenon child neglect to the of in Guyana  where  70 percent of its populace  are  under age  18  years. A  child  is  defined  by  both  the  Conventions  on  the  Rights  of  the  Child (CRC)  and  the  Guyana  Constitution  as  a  person  under  age  18  years.    The  Henry’s  report also  showed  that  children  within  the  0-15  age  cohort  account  for  more  than  a  third  of Guyana’s  population  (36.4  percent),  and  children  not  only  make  up  a  significant  portion of  Guyana’s  population,  but  are  also  a  significant  portion  of  Guyana’s  poor.  This  is corroborated  by  the  2006  Household  Income  and  Expenditure  Survey  (HIES),  which states  that  half  of  all  children  aged  16  years  and  below  are  poor  (47.5%).    About  86 percent  of  the  general  population  living  in  hinterland  regions,  live  in  extreme  poverty and  child  poverty,  as  a  consequence  of  the  poverty  rates  is  also  high. 

Cries in the Dark - Child Sexual Abuse in Guyana Today

This  summary  is  based  on  a  study  of  the  first  338  reports  of  Child  Sexual  Abuse  (CSA)  received by  the  Child  Advocacy  Centres  (CACs)  operated  by  ChildLinK  in  Guyana,  as  well  as  research interviews  with teenage  CSA  victims  and  their  supportive  caretakers. 26%  of  cases  reported  to  the  CACs  concerned  children  who  said  they  first  suffered  abuse  at  the age  of  10  or  younger,  and  60.9%  reported  that  they  first  suffered  abuse  at  the  age  of  13  or younger. 

Caring for Boys Affected by Sexual Violence

This study explores both sexual abuse experienced by boys, including sexual exploitation, as well as harmful sexual behaviour of boys. These are referred to collectively in the report as ‘sexual violence’. The study uses a working definition of harmful sexual behaviour of children as ‘sexual  activity  where  one  individual  has  not  consented,  or  where their  relationship  includes  an imbalance of power, for example due to age, intellectual ability, physical ability or impairment (disability),  or  physical  strength’. By considering both sexual abuse of boys and harmful sexual behaviour of boys the aim is not to imply that one leads to the other in a deterministic way. In fact, boys who have experienced sexual abuse and boys who have been actors in harmful sexual behaviour share a number of indicators, as well as risk and resilience factors, which is one reason for considering both in this study. Another reason is that many of the interventions to address child sexual abuse and children’s harmful sexual behaviour are delivered by the same service providers, although requiring different approaches. Finally, the study sought to understand whether and how social norms around gender and masculinity influence sexual abuse experienced by boys and harmful sexual behaviour of boys, which will be explored through primary research being carried out by Family for Every Child. To discourage the perception that sexual abuse is a cause of harmful sexual behaviour, the authors have strived to consider each independently of the other, while recognising that it is possible for boys to be both a victim of sexual abuse and an actor in harmful sexual behaviour.