Three agencies under one roof, united with the common purpose of keeping our children safe.
Cayman’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub officially launched this morning. The MASH unit, as it’s known, aims to leverage resources to protect children in the Cayman Islands.
The MASH unit is a new approach for Cayman, bringing the Department of Children and Family Services, the RCIPS, and the Health Services Authority together into one building to tackle child abuse. However, the MASH concept itself is not new. The idea originated in the UK back in 2011 to help agencies better coordinate their efforts to protect society’s most vulnerable.
The hope is Cayman’s MASH model can be tweaked to address issues unique to our jurisdiction.
“Instead of us operating from across the capital from different silos and different ministries and departments, we’re operating from a single hub,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis.
He told Cayman 27 the MASH unit signals a new era in child protection for the Cayman Islands.
“This is not an RCIPS entity, this is not a DCFS entity, this is a Cayman Islands entity, it is MASH, it is self antonymous.
In a brief ceremony Monday (20 March) morning, the MASH unit was officially opened for business. More than 50 people crammed into the hallway as the ribbon was cut by Her Excellency the Governor Helen Kilpatrick.
“The agencies represented in MASH will assume a shared accountability in safeguarding children and for eliminating the trauma the system affects on children, which may be a result of redundant interviews, intrusive medical examinations, separation from support systems, intimidating court procedures, and communication breakdowns,” explained DCFS Director Felicia Robinson.
The under-one-roof approach ensures the agencies will work in tandem to put Cayman’s children first, and cut through the inter-agency red tape.
“We anticipate that there will be less rigid organizational boundaries, and gate keeping. This will help achieve an improved response, efficiency of investigation, speeding reaching decisions with the respect of founded and unfounded allegations,” said Ms. Robinson.
“This is operation ground zero, ladies and gentlemen, for dealing with the issues of child protection,” said Mr. Ennis.
He said the MASH unit will benefit from pooling its resources.
“By operating from a single hub we are able to coordinate resources,” he said. “Better planning, better decision-making, put our resources together which is critically important.”
The MASH unit was described as sort of a triage unit for reports of possible child abuse cases.
Since the MASH unit moved into its location at Anderson Square in February, staffers have been conducting ‘tabletop exercises’ which are basically hypothetical scenarios designed to hash out the system and test how the MASH unit will actually work in practice.
In terms of intake and reports, the DCFS is still the agency to which reports are made. However, as in the past, if police get a report of suspected abuse, they’re in immediate contact with DCFS. Now that they are just a short walk across the hall away, the hope is it only gets easier to work together.