Sus­pected Child Abuse and Ne­glect teams at gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals have their hands full safe­guard­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety, finds out

New Straits Times - - News -

ABUSED and ne­glected chil­dren are get­ting the help they need from pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Ng Su Fang and her team at Sabah Women and Chil­dren Hos­pi­tal in Likas, Kota Kin­a­balu.

She and her team make it their mis­sion to help get jus­tice for th­ese young vic­tims.

As head of the Sus­pected Child Abuse and Ne­glect (SCAN) team at the hos­pi­tal, Dr Ng be­lieves more needs to be done to curb child abuse and ne­glect as the rise in the num­ber of such cases in­di­cated the pub­lic’s lack of aware­ness about their se­ri­ous­ness.

Es­tab­lished in 2008, SCAN are cen­tralised, mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary teams in gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals that man­age cases of chil­dren sus­pected of be­ing abused.

The team usu­ally com­prises pae­di­a­tri­cians, gy­nae­col­o­gists, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, ac­ci­dent and emer­gency staff, foren­sic pathol­o­gists, nurses and med­i­cal so­cial work­ers.

Should any of them sus­pect a child of suf­fer­ing from any form of abuse, whether sex­ual, phys­i­cal, emo­tional or ne­glect, it would be re­layed to the SCAN team.

Man­age­ment of abused chil­dren is un­der­taken by the hos­pi­tal’s One Stop Cri­sis Cen­tre, where a child re­ceives treat­ment as an in­pa­tient or, if nec­es­sary, at a spe­cialty clinic.

Dr Ng opines that the level of ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness among par­ents are key to pre­vent­ing abuse.

She said she had even en­coun­tered in­stances where par­ents were un­aware that their ac­tions were abu­sive.

One of the more com­mon ex­am­ples of this is shaken baby syn­drome. It is a form of abuse where chil­dren, es­pe­cially those younger than 6 months, suf­fer bruis­ing, swelling and bleed­ing of the brain when force­fully shaken, as his or her frag­ile brain moves back and forth in­side the skull.

Par­ents or care­tak­ers some­times shook cry­ing ba­bies too ag­gres­sively out of anger or stress, she said.

Dr Ng said cases of neg­li­gence she had en­coun­tered in the last 10 years as a pae­di­a­tri­cian also baf­fled her.

“There was once a well-ed­u­cated mother who left her in­fant child un­der the care of a 16-year-old boy as she worked in a dif­fer­ent dis­trict.

“If it is al­ready hard for a young mother to take care of her own child, how could she let a teenager as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity?”

The child ended up be­ing abused and was brought to the hos­pi­tal with bleed­ing in the brain.

“Cases like this are the re­sult of the dif­fi­culty work­ing par­ents face in try­ing to find re­li­able care­tak­ers. It is also hard for cou­ples who don’t live with other fam­ily mem­bers.”

Dr Ng said SCAN would also as­sist in alert­ing the author­i­ties, such as in lodg­ing re­ports with the po­lice.

“This is where we come in and help the chil­dren get jus­tice against the peo­ple who abuse or ne­glect them.

“The team also works closely with wel­fare of­fi­cers and child pro­tec­tors who pay home vis­its.

“This helps in bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the dy­namic and psy­choso­cial back­ground of the vic­tims and their fam­ily,” she said.

Dr Ng said some of the chal­lenges in try­ing to charge per­pe­tra­tors who abuse mi­nors in­cluded the fact that there were no wit­nesses or strong ev­i­dence.

She said in the past, a lack of ev­i­dence as well as rel­a­tives who failed to help the vic­tims had hin­dered in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Early in­ter­ven­tion by SCAN is also im­por­tant as many abused or ne­glected chil­dren rarely lead nor­mal lives after the trauma they en­dured.

“There are those who end up need­ing med­i­ca­tion for epilepsy, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, cere­bral

The pae­di­atric unit at the Sabah Women and Chil­dren Hos­pi­tal in Likas, Kota Kin­a­balu. Pae­di­a­tri­cians, gy­nae­col­o­gists, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, ac­ci­dent and emer­gency staff, foren­sic pathol­o­gists, nurses and med­i­cal so­cial work­ers all play their part in help­ing abuse vic­tims.

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