JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) is reporting a drop in the number of children reported missing in 2014.
  • The team at the OCR, with assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica Country Office, has also developed an Ananda Alert Search and Rescue Protocol for Missing Children.
  • The OCR’s nine child ambassadors are also instrumental in raising awareness of child abuse within their respective schools. The initiative, launched in 2012, aims to get children more actively involved in the fight to reduce and eventually eliminate the phenomena of child abuse and missing children in Jamaica.

The Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) is reporting a drop in the number of children reported missing in 2014.

Registrar of the OCR, Greig Smith, tells JIS News that there has been a 10 per cent decline in the number of children reported missing for the period January to December 2014 when compared to the corresponding period in 2013.

“In 2013, we recorded over 2,200 children being missing in Jamaica and I am pleased to say that we have reduced that number by 10 per cent; less than 2,000 children went missing in Jamaica for the year 2014,” Mr. Smith says.

He informs that 79 per cent of the children reported missing were females, while the remaining 21 were males.

The OCR’s data, sourced directly from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Missing Person Monitoring Unit, also revealed that approximately nine out of every 10 children reported missing last year have since returned home.

Additionally, Mr. Smith says, there has been a 50 per cent decline in the number of children that were found dead. He informs that 14 children were found dead in 2013 compared to seven in 2014.

Ananda Alert, a nationwide system used for the safe and speedy recovery of missing children, was transferred to the Ministry of Youth and Culture on March 1, 2013, with the OCR assuming responsibility for its operation.

The initiative involves raising public awareness of missing children, and strengthening rescue, recovery and intervention measures that are vital to the welfare of child victims and their families.

Mr. Smith, in noting that the system is working “effectively,” attributes its success to the multi-sectoral approach adopted by the OCR in raising the alarm when children go missing and in reuniting them with their families.

Numerous public and private sector organisations and individuals have joined the fight to keep children safe by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreeing to receive and broadcast alerts of missing children.

Persons can receive reports when an Ananda Alert has been activated by submitting their names and email addresses to anandaalert@ocr.gov.jm.

“Once a child goes missing, whether the report is made to the Office of the Children’s Registry or the local police station within your jurisdiction, and once that verification is done, within a few minutes of that child being missing, then a blast goes out to all the television stations, and the OCR filters such to its partners and other stakeholders,” Mr. Smith explains.

Among the partners is Global Media Services Limited, which came on board in 2014. Mr. Smith tells JIS News that the organisation has been broadcasting alerts of missing and recovered children and other public awareness messages developed by the OCR through its pharmacy network and select bill payment locations.

“We will continue working with Global Media Services so that within our two international airports, the faces and names of our children, who have gone missing can be highlighted. Those children, who have gone missing their photographs are circulated within pharmacies, supermarkets,” he says.

Mr. Smith tells JIS News that the OCR continues to forge collaborations and will be looking for new partners this calendar year.

Recently, an MoU was signed with the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) to facilitate the installation of six computers and printers in libraries across select parishes for the printing and dissemination of information regarding missing children.

Mr. Smith says the OCR will also be working with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and the Transport Authority, which will see the “training of drivers and operators on strategies for identifying children at risk and the mechanisms through which such reports can be made.”

To further strengthen Ananda Alert, the OCR has liaised with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Jamaica Fire Brigade and other stakeholders to train Jamaicans in standard operating procedures that are necessary in the search and rescue of missing children. So far, over 600 persons from six parishes have attended the training sessions. Mr. Smith tells JIS News that the training will be expanded to other parishes during the next financial year.

“We will continue to seek to strengthen our partnership with the JCF with new initiatives,” he says, pointing out that the Registrar works closely with the JCF Missing Person Monitoring Unit “to appropriately action all missing children reports that are made to us.”

The team at the OCR, with assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica Country Office, has also developed an Ananda Alert Search and Rescue Protocol for Missing Children.

The aim is to improve the child search and rescue system and to assist personnel in State agencies, non-governmental, faith-based and community groups involved in the search, to meet specific objectives set out in the document. Mr. Smith says the document has been disseminated to children’s homes, and private and public sector entities.

He informs that the Registry is also working with the National Spatial Data Management Division (NSDMD), a division in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, to map all reported incidents of missing children, which has assisted the OCR and staff at the Ananda Alert Secretariat to provide targeted sensitisation sessions to schools and other community groups.

Over the past year, the OCR has been making presentations to schools, church groups among other entities, about the types of child abuse and how to protect against and report known or suspected cases of abuse. The entity has also distributed information material during school tours to students, parents and teachers.

Mr. Smith tells JIS News that the OCR will be targeting more schools for tours this year, which involve collaboration with the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the JCF and the National Parenting Support Commission.

“We want to target at least an additional 25 schools up from the 16 that we did between September and December,” he says, noting that the agency will be going into deep rural areas.

As part of its public education, Mr. Smith says the OCR will continue with its “Pon di Corner” reasoning sessions to educate citizens about the reporting process of child abuse.

“We will be a part of the RJR Cross Country Invasion spreading the messages of how it is we can be involved in reducing child abuse in the nooks and crannies of Jamaica,” he informs.

“Public education has to be sustained in a very creative way that will not cause additional expenditure on the pockets of the Government,” he notes.

The OCR’s nine child ambassadors are also instrumental in raising awareness of child abuse within their respective schools. The initiative, launched in 2012, aims to get children more actively involved in the fight to reduce and eventually eliminate the phenomena of child abuse and missing children in Jamaica.

Mr. Smith says that saving a child must become everybody’s business, even that of the children themselves.

“This is what we really want. The messages cannot only be sent by the Registrar or staff of the OCR but by the voices of our children in our child participation programmes,” he contends.