The Department of Child and Family Services received 1,006 child abuse reports last year, with 741 meeting the criteria for investigation.

Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Youth, Social Development and Seniors, revealed this yesterday during a proclamation outside City Hall designating April Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“The number of children exposed to family violence remains the highest form of neglect cases reported,” Ms Furbert said.

Over the past three years, the DCFS received hundreds of child abuse reports annually.

According to the Government of Bermuda’s website, in 2021 the agency received 918 reports.

By April 2022, the DCFS had already logged 302 reports for the year.

Ms Furbert said child abuse and neglect was “a serious problem that affects every segment of our community”.

She said that to find solutions, “there must be input and action from every member of our community”.

She said children “are our most valuable resources and will shape the future of Bermuda”.

Ms Furbert added that child abuse can have “psychological, emotional and physical effects”, leaving have lifelong consequences for victims.

Effective child abuse prevention could succeed through collaboration between groups including the Government, police, community groups, and non-governmental and faith-based organisations.

Ms Furbert called on communities to make every effort to promote programmes and activities to benefit children and their families

“Child abuse prevention remains the best defence for our children and their families,” she added.

Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, told the gathering that the Corporation of Hamilton supported the Government in its fight to end child abuse.

He said Child Abuse Prevention Month served as a reminder for everyone to take “collective responsibilities to safeguard the innocence and wellbeing of our youngest citizens”.

Mr Gosling said it was imperative that everyone recognised “the gravity of the issue at hand”.

Dwayne Caines, the corporation’s chief executive, called on people to “stand as guardians for tomorrow and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the wellbeing and protection of our youngest Bermudians”.

Mr Caines added: “It is our duty, our mandate, to endorse the innocence of youth, to protect their rights to a life free from abuse, be it emotional, physical, financial, sexual or otherwise.”

He said the responsibility “expands beyond guardianship”.

Mr Caines deemed the call to action to fight child abuse “a declaration of love and a commitment to the innocence and the potential of every Bermudian child”.

“The time to act is now, the duty is ours to bear.”

“Let us make Bermuda a beacon of protection, love and nurturing for all children, today, tomorrow and for generations to come.”

Visitors interacted with representatives at booths set up by multiple agencies in support.

They included the Family Centre, the Bermuda Police Service, Mirrors, Solstice Bermuda, Scars, and several ministry units including the departments of foster care as well as youth affairs.

Last November, a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment of Health report highlighted that adverse childhood experiences, including child sexual abuse, were rife in Bermuda.

The report stated that 90 per cent of residents “have experienced at least one type of adverse childhood experience”, with half of women in Bermuda reporting childhood sexual abuse defined as physical contact rather than offences such as exposure or grooming.

The Royal Gazette