The Human Services Department has responded to criticisms over it’s alleged failure to take action in the case of an abused four-year-old child Milan Ferdinand, who died recently.
Director Elizabeth Lewis said her department did receive one report of abuse for Milan and acted on it. According to her, Milan was examined by a medical doctor, but at that time the issue was “not deemed serious.”
Lewis said the department never received any other reports regarding the toddler.
“Pointing fingers at Human Services and the police, and removing ourselves is not going to help. There are several Milans going through the same situation and people must respond,” she asserted.
The director said Millan’s unfortunate death should be used as a reminder that “child protection is everyone’s business” and that “corporal punishment must come to an end”.
A post mortem examination revealed that Milan died as a result of severe brain damage and head injury due to blunt force trauma. Also noted were multiple blunt force traumas all over the body.
Lewis said she finds the situation “extremely disturbing”, stating that the loss of a child in any way is something that hurts many persons.
“This case is certainly not unique to Saint Lucia because at Human Services we get several reports and we work with families regarding issues of physical abuse of children,” she noted.
In defending her staff, Lewis said social workers work extremely hard to ensure that children are protected and cases of corporal punishment are dealt with efficiently.
She said: “Corporal punishment is embedded in our culture and so for many of us it is not abuse. We have to reflect as a society as how do we protect our children.”
Lewis argued that everything should not be left up to the Human Services Department to do, but everyone has a role to play in ensuring that these cases are reported.
“Certainly when the parents fail, somebody, somewhere must step in. It doesn’t always have to be the social worker or Human Services. We have schools, churches and family members,” she added.
Milan’s relatives have claimed that more than one report was made with Human Services and no one acted on those reports. They even said the social worker who handled the case apologised.
Millan reportedly died Friday, Oct. 9, about five days after he was admitted to Victoria Hospital.
He was in the care of his father and step-mother, at the time of his death.