The Child Abuse Mitigation Project (CAMP BUSTAMANTE)
The Child Abuse Mitigation Project - a hospital based response to violence against children in Jamaica
At the Bustamante Hospital for Children, Jamaica's only paediatric hospital, it had become apparent in 2004 that too many children were being hospitalized owing to abuse and neglect. Children were the victim of 70% of sexual crimes reported to the Police in 2004 and in that year, the Jamaica Injury Surveillance System at the hospital documented 560 cases of abuse, neglect and unintentional injuries. At the time, children deemed high risk were given protection but little existed for others who were often returned to the situation from which they had come, only to suffer further abuse.
The Child Abuse Mitigation Project, popularly known as CAMP Bustamante, established at the hospital in 2004 with funds received from UNICEF, has so far rescued 704 children from the threat of further abuse and neglect, thereby keeping them out of the accident and emergency rooms. Violence-inflicted injuries include physical assault (45%); injuries to the head and (36.8%) sexual assault (16.4%); gunshot wounds (1.3%).
Using a hospital-based model, children admitted to the facility who appear to be victims of violence are identified, referred and treated. Hospital staff are taught how to recognize signs of physical and sexual assault and some 25 collaborating government and non-governmental agencies across Jamaica work to save these children. The Police-operated Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA); the Child Development Agency and the ….. are three of the major agencies collaborating on the CAMP Bustamante Project.
CAMP Bustamante employs a cadre of social workers who not only see to the psycho-social care of the children but undertake risk assessment of the children through visits to their homes and schools. Those deemed high risk are referred to the Child Development Agency and other social service agencies while medium risk children are systematically followed up. Case investigations revealed that predominant factors for abuse are weak parenting skills, especially poor management of discipline - children are given bizarre punishment such as putting their fingers in hot water or suffer the overuse of physical punishment. Other factors include poverty and isolation; family violence and weak community support systems.
Parenting education is an important aspect of CAMP Bustamante and parents of the victims are taught how to resolve conflicts without resorting to physical punishment. Intervention within the child's environment of the home, school and church includes structured therapeutic activities during the summer holidays and Saturdays over a 12 week period.
CAMP Bustamante has shown the importance of using Injury Surveillance Systems to identify and monitor children at risk to violence, ensuring targeted and comprehensive risk assessment and family-based interventions.
The CAMP Bustamante team is now formalizing a training module on child abuse and mitigation on violence against children to be used by the University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Health. It is hoped to enhance the capacities of 500 professionals working with children leading to the replication of the CAMP Bustamante model in other hospitals island-wide.