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  • These interventions are intended to be parish specific.
  • The preventative programmes are part of several strategies contained in a research commissioned by the OCA.
  • Other strategies include vibrant public education campaigns within communities.

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, is recommending the implementation of “individualised preventative programmes” to address the issue of children, who live/work on the streets.

These interventions are intended to be parish specific, as according to Mrs. Gordon Harrison, “the problem as it appears in Kingston is not as it appears in Ocho Rios or St. James.”

She was speaking on November 6 at the 8th staging of the Caribbean Child Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

The preventative programmes are part of several strategies contained in a research commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) from January to June 2013, which highlighted push factors that are causing children to be on the streets.

Mrs. Gordon Harrison said that while there have been “sporadic interventions,” to addresses the issue, including the removal of the children by police, they often “reappear at another stoplight a couple weeks later”.

“So, we are looking at very strategic community-based interventions and so we will be making recommendations to the relevant agencies to see how best they can adopt any of the suggestions and recommendations that we have made in keeping with the research that we have conducted,” she stated.

Other strategies include vibrant public education campaigns within communities. “We think sometimes, when a child is at risk, community members can assist with saving that child or at least alerting the relevant agencies, then we can intervene and rescue that child before the child actually makes it out on the street,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison said.

She noted that the support of community leaders and members will also help to reduce stigmatisation once the children have returned home.

Another key strategy, she said, is to support parents at home so that they can be better caregivers for their children, are able to supervise them more effectively, and so cauterise any inclination that the child may have to go on the street. “They can make the home a more nurturing environment, so that the child won’t have the yearning to actually leave the home,” she argued.

The Children’s Advocate said data shows that children on the streets, perform very poor academically “and so you are talking about making that whole child feel accomplished, feel more connected to the regular institutions, which are not available on the streets”.

The study also recommended that an up-to-date census of children on the streets should be conducted island-wide, as the actual numbers are unknown. “The data gathered should be disaggregated according to parish, age, gender and category of connection to the street,” she said.

Some of the underlying factors that lead children to the streets are: inadequate parenting skills and insufficient child welfare systems; neglect or abuse; material depravation; inadequate housing and access to family support; vast migration to urban centres; high levels of unemployment; weakening of the traditional family structure; parental disapproval of pregnancy or homosexuality; and the inability to adjust to institutional rules in children’s homes or other placements.

The regional event, which is being staged under theme: ‘Beyond 2015: Safeguarding Our Children’s Future’, aims to examine the progress made since 2000, when many nations committed to eight millennium development goals (MDGs).

The main objectives of the annual conference are to: provide a forum for children and adults to present their research on child-related issues; promote a culture of research among students in the high schools in the Caribbean by facilitating the presentation by students of their research and awarding a prize to an outstanding child researcher; and disseminate findings on child-related research.

It also seeks to strengthen the networking links among researchers of child-related matters; and inform the policy formulation and implementation process in the Caribbean region through the published research findings.

The two-day conference is being staged by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the Caribbean Child Development Centre, the Office of the Children’s Registry, the Child Development Agency, among others.

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