The responsibility of ensuring every VOH child is safe from every form of abuse is something I take very seriously. All Village of Hope locations are blessed with staff that feel just as strongly about our responsibility to ensure all of our locations are child friendly and safe.
Villages of Hope Africa’s Child Protection Policy statement is:
“Every Child is Everyone’s Child”
We value all children and believe every child has the right to protection from all forms of abuse. We are committed to providing safe and secure environments for each child under our care by ensuring all staff, volunteers, and children follow the written Child Protection Policy.
On September 5th, BBC announced the UN’s release of a report on violence against children. The UN based their report on a survey that included 190 countries. The report showed that 1 in 10 girls have been sexually abused. About 120 million girls around the world have been raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 20. The report also found that 6 out of 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14 have been physically punished by caregivers.
Most of the abuse that children experience occurs in places where children should be safe–places like their homes, schools, and communities.
Child homicide numbers are staggering. An estimated 95,000 children and teenagers were murdered in 2012 alone. Most of these murders took place in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, Nigeria has the highest number of child homicides with a total 13,000. The U.S. topped Western Europe and North America in the category of child homicides.
In some countries the attitude towards child violence is still seen as socially acceptable and tactilely condoned according to the report. Many children are too afraid to report the abuses; many children feel no one is there to protect them.
The report stated,
“Never before have so many statistics been gathered from so many different countries, and together they have produced a grim global audit of violence against children.”
On September 12th another report was posted on the BBC website regarding the NFL player charged with reckless and negligent injury to a child when he pushed his son in response to something the child did to his brother. The push resulted in bruises and cuts on the son’s back, legs, and buttocks. The father in the police interview referred to this as a “whooping.” Alongside this story was the one of the Massachusetts woman charged after found to have concealed bodies of three infants in her home. Her lawyer claims she suffers from a mental illness.
As I was reading this report I came across a report posted the day before the UN story. It reported that Dyson has invented a Robotic vacuum cleaner, one with a more powerful suction than any other robotic vacuum cleaner. It also has a unique camera that enables it to spot dirt. It claims that this unit is methodical and will not miss a section of the floor space.
A competitor of Dyson is claiming their units will be fitted with a wet mop system. Instead of a camera, one manufacturer has developed a laser detection system that will be more accurate than the camera on the Dyson unit. Some will even be equipped with a camera so the owner can check on their smart phone to ensure the unit has done its job.
BBC also reported that a robot capable of loading a dishwasher has been developed, they have named it Boris. It has human like hands and is able to pick up dishes and cups with its one hand. They are currently working on a two handed model. Bob is another robot that can manipulate itself around a world shared by humans using a heat detection system. It is currently able to function alongside humans for up to a week without input from a human. Boris currently is stationary but one can see what is coming with the merging of these two technologies.
You may wonder what Child abuse has to do with robotics. As the report from the UN stated, their research has produced a grim global audit of violence against children. That coupled with the fact that much of the harm done to children is by those who are responsible for their wellbeing, I began to wonder about the capacity of the human race to care for its young. As I read the stories about the robotic vacuum cleaner, Boris and Bob I began to think that research should be focused on robotic child care providers, ones that are programmed not to do harm to children. This might be too futuristic for some, but when you see and hear of the abuse and neglect children face, you can understand why the thought of robotic child caregivers can enter one’s thoughts.
I understand there is much a robot can never offer a child. Positive human interaction and personal relationships are very important to the development of a child. Robots could never exhibit the love a child needs.
Maybe the better answer is to reprogram people’s views of children and help them understand their responsibility in the nurturing of a child.
VOH continues to take a strong stance in the area of child protection. This means coming up against the views that see violence against children as socially accepted or tacitly condoned. We continue to develop policies geared at safeguarding children against all harm. We train all of our caregivers and staff in the area of safeguarding.
Our goal is to make all our locations and programs safe for children. We encourage ongoing risk assessment of our facilities and programs. We are always striving to mitigate the risks that may cause harm to the children we care for.
I have concluded that reprogramming humans is by far better than programming robots to become caregivers. Lets hope and pray not too many more children will suffer or die before countries who continue to take a blind eye wake up and address this problem.