The referrals received by the Department of the Family for child abuse continue to increase due to confinement due to the covid-19 pandemic and neglect of the mental health of children, acknowledged the secretary of the Department of the Family, Carmen Ana González Magaz.
“Currently, when comparing the numbers of referrals of abuse in the same period of the previous year, an increase of 21.4% was observed. As of April 6, 2021, 3,727 abuse referrals received through the Family Department’s Abuse Report Line, compared to 3,069 referrals received in the same period the previous year. This yields 658 additional referrals ”, stated González Magaz in the presentation submitted yesterday at the public hearing of the Senate.
The secretary sent the presentation to the joint public hearing of the commissions of Social Welfare and Old Age Affairs and of Life and Family Affairs, chaired by Senators Rosamar Trujillo Plumey and Joanne Rodríguez Veve.
However, the official did not attend the hearing in which Senate Resolution 157 to investigate child abuse on the island was being discussed. Her absence upset Senators Trujillo Plumey and Rodríguez Veve.
In the presentation, González Magaz indicated that he has increased the awareness of citizens to detect the abuse of minors in scenarios of closure and isolation due to the pandemic.
“On these figures we could make the obvious observation of the increase in referrals and conclude without further analysis that child abuse has increased. However, the responsible exercise is to recognize that the numbers of referrals from last year may not represent a real reflection of the situations of abuse on the Island, for the reasons stated above, ”said González Magaz.
The official also explained that the circumstances of the pandemic and the factors that previously influenced the complaints of child abuse are changing.
“Likewise, we could affirm that awareness of the situation and the difficulties in signaling abuse in the pandemic scenarios have borne fruit and citizens are more vigilant and aware of the responsibility that we all have to ensure the well-being and safety of minors ”, he added.
The senators dissatisfied
The legislators stated that the written presentation of the Secretary of the Family was not enough and expressed their dissatisfaction.
“Today (yesterday) a call was received from the Family requesting that he be excused from the hearing and asking to reschedule an appearance. The commission will reschedule an appointment. However, to be clear on record, this commission coordinated efforts well in advance to get the department to appear. Although they have sent their comments, their presence is essential, since their comments are not in accordance with the resolution, ”said Trujillo Plumey, senator of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD).
He indicated that he would summon González Magaz again to make him stand in public.
Rodríguez Veve, from Proyecto Dignidad, also criticized the official for not appearing.
“I find it unfortunate and incredible that the Department of the Family did not appear, especially that they excused themselves this morning (yesterday). It seems inexcusable to me that they have even sent a representative of the agency to attend to a neuralgic issue for Puerto Rican children, “he said.
Following the senators’ complaints, González Magaz sent written statements to THE SPOKESMAN in which it was expressed to be “aware of the importance of the invitation” to attend a measure on child abuse.
“I recognize the duty of participation in these processes in order to continue our mission of service to the most vulnerable sectors. During the morning, staff from my office communicated to excuse my appearance, as a result of several previous commitments, including fulfilling the responsibility of presiding over the first public hearing of the PARE Committee. However, we take care of sending the corresponding presentation within the required period of time ”, stated the owner.
David Vázquez, representative of the Acting Secretary of Education, Eliezer Ramos Parés, appeared at the hearing.
The official presented his presentation, but the legislators questioned the lack of information and statistics requested on child abuse.
Vázquez answered the senators’ questions on several occasions that the data would be sent to the Commission because it did not have them at the time.
“The resolution is clear. It was fundamental and of clear respect for the work of this commission, of respect for us, of respect for those who are watching us and of respect for the country, that it bring us, even if it is, some numbers to know where we are standing, ”said Trujillo Plumey.
The Senate gave the DE five business days to provide statistical information on student abuse cases that the agency collects.