Unescorted children soliciting money a "serious concern"
Responding to a caller on his weekend radio program, Gov. Togiola Tulafono urged the community to work with the appropriate government agencies if they witness an incident that may affect or impact the life of young children.
The elderly male caller said he was very sad to see a very young child sitting in front of a store in the Western District, early one evening, asking shoppers to sign his church walk-a-thon paper for money donations.
The caller said the child was also hungry so he shared his food with the child and told the child to tell their parents not to do this again. However, the caller said he saw the same child the following evening doing the same thing.
The caller was disturbed that a parent would allow a young child to solicit money in such a way.
Togiola said this serious concern raised by the caller, should be directed to the parents or relatives of such children, because the child would not act in such a way without direction from a parent or legal guardian.
If, on the other hand, the child is acting without their parents' permission, there is an opportunity for anyone to contact Social Services who will investigate the situation and find out from the child involved, why he was there soliciting funds, the governor said.
Togiola urged the public to work with government on all matters pertaining to the community, adding that enforcement of the territory's laws and regulations is not the sole responsibility of the government, whose representatives cannot be everywhere all the time.
He said there are incidents which the government would not know about unless the public reports them and if the proper authorities can be promptly dispatched to investigate any violations — including those affecting children — many times these situations can be quickly addressed, especially when it comes to children.
He recommended the public report incidents, such as youngsters walking around fundraising, to the [DHSS] Social Services so they can be checked out as soon as possible.
The governor said he suspects there are parents who use their young children with sign-up papers to attract people in order to get money, while the parent is hiding somewhere.
He urged the community to assist government if they witness any incidents that affect a child and to please contact police immediately or contact Social Services, who will carry out their duties. “We need to protect our children,” he emphasized.
Samoa News has received numerous complaints over the years from members of the community who have witnessed children as young as eight and ten years old wandering in the town area, asking people to sign up for church walk-a-thons or other types of fund-raising activities.