Recent news headlines on child abuse barely scratch the surface on the very real struggles that our community has faced. Read our letter to the editor below (originally published here in the South China Morning Post on 4th May 2021).
Last month’s conviction of a couple for the murder of their five-year-old daughter in January 2018 left our city shocked and heartbroken over child abuse in Hong Kong. It also reignited a debate on whether professionals should be legally required to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the authorities.
Child protection is not just the responsibility of policymakers. Everyone and every sector of society has a role to play, and everyone can make a difference.
While establishing mandatory reporting of child abuse in Hong Kong legislation would be an important step forward in protecting children at a systemic level, anyone can voluntarily report any concern about child abuse at any time.
At Mother’s Choice, a local charity serving the many children without families as well as pregnant teenagers in Hong Kong, we believe that keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility. Each employee, volunteer and foster parent completes child protection training upon joining, which teaches them how to identify, respond to and report child abuse if there is a concern.
As our city emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, children who have been isolated, abused and neglected will rejoin society, and the adults around them must respond to any concerns they have.
But while we can all report child abuse, we often feel hopeless, not knowing what to do when our heart, body or mind is telling us that a child we know may not be safe. Despite this, there are small actions we can all take.
Firstly, we can educate ourselves. Mother’s Choice extends an open invitation to complete our online child protection training by contacting email@example.com, and we can share our experiences of building robust child safeguarding policies throughout our organisation.
We can also take notice of the vulnerable children around us, especially those in families who are isolated and alone. Befriending and walking alongside a struggling family, including young single parents, can make a world of difference to a child’s sense of safety and security.
Our vision is to see every child in a safe, loving and permanent family, surrounded by a supportive community.
While strengthening the legislation to protect children in Hong Kong may still take time, each one of us can step up immediately as we stand together as a city to keep children safe.
Chloe Banks, manager, Safe Families, Mother’s Choice