Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, is calling for effective partnerships by all stakeholders, in addressing the issues affecting the nation’s children.
“The state of our nation’s children demands that it’s all hands on deck… There is no simple solution. There is no one individual or organization that is the repository of all the answers,” she said.
“There must be a recognition therefore that we all have to pool our mental resources, be willing to learn from each other and highlight and embrace the best practices garnered along the way,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison added.
The Children’s Advocate was speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for 53 new Justices of the Peace (JPs) for the parish of Kingston, held at the Leslie Ridout Hall, Kingston Bookshop Limited, in downtown Kingston, on April 30.
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She emphasised that the Government, civil society, various organizations and community members have critical roles to play in protecting the nation’s children.
“The old adage, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, rings true to this very day, even though we seem to have departed from that approach to child rearing. Each of us in our insular world and our realities as we would wish them to be, continue with business as usual when we sometimes learn of questionable circumstances which may negatively affect a child,” the Advocate said.
“The fact is that if as individuals we are not willing to stand up and be counted, all the laws, policies and institutional frameworks that may be put in place, are quite worthless. Systems need the co-operation of people to make them work effectively,” she emphasised.
Mrs. Gordon Harrison said the nation’s children are affected by all types of violence and are featured as both victims/witnesses and as perpetrators.
She noted that some of the abuses children are exposed to are: sexual and other types of physical abuse, emotional abuse, child labour, neglect, and deemed to be in need of care and protection.
The Advocate said that children who are neglected and those reported as being in need of care and protection account for the majority of cases, and informed that for 2012, 4,428 children were reported to be neglected, while 3,040 were in need of care and protection.
“This points to an issue of parenting, insufficient or lax supervision and a degradation of good sound values and morals and positive attitudes towards our children. The time has come for social re-engineering, a collective consciousness that we must re-tool and equip our parents and communities with the necessary resources to deal with the task of child rearing as a priority, and as their most important job,” she argued.
She said the figures reveal that the variety of issues touch and affect children in all parishes and the types of abuses are quite expansive.
Mrs. Gordon Harrison said in 2011, a total of 6,675 children were reported as being abused, adding that the figure increased to 7,185 in 2012.
“Of the total for 2012, some 4,204 were girls and 2,890 were boys. Girls continue to suffer more abuses, but quite a few boys are impacted as well,” she pointed out.
With the new members in place, there are approximately 700 Justices of the Peace serving the parish of Kingston.
Training was carried out over three to six weeks by Judge, Sonia Bertram Linton, Q.C., in conjunction with the Justice Training Institute.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter