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Department of Human Services responds to allegations of inaction in Cannon case

The death of 13-year-old, Faye Lin Cannon last week in San Pedro has dominated the headlines as well as on social media. Today the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation issued a release saying it joins the nation in grieving the teenager’s death. The Department says it is collaborating with the San Pedro Police Department in its criminal investigation. As has been reported, following the detention of the couple last week, the three surviving siblings were taken into protective care. The Department of Human Services says it is also currently conducting its child abuse investigation and has referred the children for therapeutic counseling to assist them through this traumatic experience. In its release the Department says while it is unable to discuss the details of cases due to their mandate of confidentiality, there have been a number of disclosures about the Department’s previous involvement with the family in the media. The release says quote :”Departmental records show that in 2014, there was a report of improper supervision and inadequate parenting whereby the Cannon children were being exposed to the elements. A joint investigation was conducted along with the Police Department, where the parents, children and school officials were interviewed. The allegation was substantiated; however, there were no disclosures or indicators of any other forms of physical or sexual abuse at that time. As such, the Department created a plan with the parents for the proper supervision of the children. The plan was monitored for adherence and the case was later closed when it was deemed that the parents had been compliant. Since then, the Department’s records show no other reports being made of neglect or abuse of these children.” End of quote. The Department says it is unfortunate that the abuse of our children continues to be an everyday occurrence. In 2016, the Ministry received and investigated 1,485 reports of child abuse and neglect and is aware that many more cases go unreported. To strengthen this child protection and response system, the Ministry has partnered with the National Committee for Families and Children, Ministry of Education, and NOPCAN to conduct nationwide training on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse. The program aims to train all those who work with children to detect the signs and symptoms of abuse and apply appropriate protocols for responding to suspected cases. So far, training workshops has been held for primary school teachers and other stakeholders in the Belize Districts. The release issues a reminder that the Families and Children (Child Abuse Reporting) Regulations, Chapter 173 Revised Edition 2003, specifies that it is a moral obligation of the general public to report child abuse and it is mandatory for family members, education personnel, health personnel, and any person whose daily work involves children to report any known or suspected abuse or neglect of children to the Department of Human Services or Police Department.