Sixteen children from various institutions across the Corporate Area have been selected to serve on the Children’s Advisory Panel of the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA).
They have been chosen from primary and high schools, and child care institutions for the pilot project.
Speaking at a press launch at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, on February 15, Public Education and Special Projects Manager, OCA, Georgia Garvey said that the Panel represents a structured mechanism for child participation and for children to reach the OCA with their concerns.
Some of the responsibilities of the children will include: assisting the OCA in developing policies and service delivery recommendations; assist in reviewing documents and policy papers created by the office; and provide input and guidance before they are submitted to the relevant authorities.
“We need to capture the views of the children and to ensure that our recommendations reflect their needs,” Ms. Garvey added.
The Public Education and Special Projects Manager also noted that the Panel will also help to provide clarity on issues that the Office has an interest in, and guide future actions in the area.
“The Panel will also have responsibility to bring issues to the attention of the Children’s Advocate for her knowledge, action and intervention, and they will also assist the Office in speaking to different groups of children,” she said, adding that they will be empowered to assist other children.
Another duty of the children is to assist the Office in translating its documents into child friendly versions.
Ms. Garvey said that the establishment of the Panel ties in with the Child Care and Protection Act, which mandates the Office to consult with children on issues affecting them.
The Panel was developed in collaboration with the Children’s Council of Jamaica, with funding from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.
A member of the Children’s Advisory Panel, Amani Cooke said the establishment of the Panel is recognition of the potential of children to be leaders, while remaining sympathetic to the concerns of fellow peers.
“We see ourselves as an important link between the huge number of children in our society and the Office of the Children’s Advocate, allowing important information to flow back and forth, so children can be better protected,” she said.
CONTACT: CHRIS PATTERSON