JIS News

Jamaica’s first ever Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, is to demit office on April 1, just over five years after her appointment.

Mrs. Clarke, who has served in the public sector in various capacities for over 40 years, was appointed to the position in 2006, after the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) was established under the Child Care and Protection Act.

Making the announcement at OCA’s 5th anniversary staff and donor appreciation luncheon at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Friday (February 18), Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said Mrs. Clarke’s decision came after some deliberation and following meetings with him.

Mr. Chuck, through whose office the Children’s Advocate reports to Parliament, said Mrs. Clarke, who consented to his announcement of her retirement, met with him last year to discuss the possibility of her demitting office. He said the initial proposal was declined, and she was urged to stay on for a while.

“But, I must tell you sadly, that she has since then made a final decision that she will be retiring, and she goes on (pre)retirement leave on the first of April. So, in spite of my strong persuasion and my encouragement to stay on, she has indicated to me that she will be leaving the post,” he said.

Mr. Chuck said the necessary process will be undertaken to identify a successor. The Child Care and Protection Act provides for her to make recommendations to this end. 

In noting her “outstanding” leadership of the OCA since its inception, Mr. Chuck said while she has experienced challenges, she remained fully committed to her work and gave more than 100 per cent effort.

“I have seen, over the last few years, that her work is being better appreciated. I can see that when she goes out and she speaks… people are recognizing that her work is, not only important, but beneficial to the well-being of our society,” The Speaker said.                 

Mrs. Clarke told JIS News that the process of identifying a successor should start when she goes on retirement leave. She said that she is in the process of identifying and recommending a temporary replacement. She has shortlisted four candidates, which she has suggested to the Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, and Mr. Chuck, during meetings with them on the matter.

“I am hoping to name the person in another week or two. But, I must first meet with the persons, establish their interest, availability (and) their willingness to serve, before I (recommend) a name,” Mrs. Clarke said.

She gave an undertaking to lend her expertise and support to her successor, assuring that she is “here for the children of Jamaica”, and that her passion for then will not die with her retirement.