Feature
Acting Registrar at the National Children’s Registry (NCR) in the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Warren Thompson.
Photo: Contributed

Story Highlights

  • Statistics from the National Children’s Registry (NCR) is showing a reduction in reports of missing children last year.
  • A total of 1,512 children were reported missing in 2018, which is the lowest figure since the establishment of the Ananda Alert system in 2009.
  • In 2017, a total of 1,674 children were reported missing, with 1,476 returned. There is a 90 per cent return/recovery rate of missing children in Jamaica.

Statistics from the National Children’s Registry (NCR) is showing a reduction in reports of missing children last year.

A total of 1,512 children were reported missing in 2018, which is the lowest figure since the establishment of the Ananda Alert system in 2009.

In 2017, a total of 1,674 children were reported missing, with 1,476 returned. There is a 90 per cent return/recovery rate of missing children in Jamaica.

Ananda Alert was launched after the abduction and murder of 11-year-old schoolgirl Ananda Dean in September 2008.

Acting Registrar at the NCR in the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Warren Thompson, says the system was created out of the need for a speedier response to missing children reports, and to provide support to desperate parents who are “wondering what to do, where to go, how to begin”.

It is multisectoral approach, involving various stakeholders, to rapidly get information on missing children out to the public, in order to ensure their safe and speedy recovery.

When a child goes missing, a report is made to the nearest police station or by calling 119. The police then raises the awareness of all Ananda Alert stakeholders, including media houses, mobile companies, local authorities, parish councils, which mobilises community groups.

After 12 hours, photos of the missing child are placed on electronic/mobile billboards, in shops, supermarkets, community centres, church halls, schools and post offices.

Among the Ananda Alert partners is the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) in order to ensure that children who go missing are not crossing any ports of exit.

Mr. Thompson says that there is also collaboration with Facebook. He explains that in high-risk cases, where abduction or foul play is suspected, Facebook will upload alerts to the newsfeeds of users in targeted search areas.

These alerts will include photographs and other pertinent information about the child.

In addition, with Jamaica being a member of the Global Missing Children’s Network, information on local children who go missing and are not recovered within a particular time frame goes into a database, which allows for persons in countries all over the world to join in the search.

The age progression technology, available through the network, gives the public an idea as to what the child will look like as they grow older.

Mr. Thompson tells JIS News that the CPFSA reaches out to families to provide intervention and support at the time the child goes missing and when recovered.

Meanwhile, with the majority of the children reported missing being runaways, which means that they voluntarily leave home, Mr. Thompson says that the CPFSA is placing increased focus on care and protection.

“As an organisation, this is something that we have to contend with, because some parents take the approach that the child is a “bad pickney”.

“Every child who goes missing is in need of care and protection. Children who are labelled as being ‘bad’ do not run away from a good home, and so what we have found is that, invariably, when a child goes missing, his or her vulnerability increases. It is during interaction with a child who is returned or recovered, to see what kind of interventions is necessary, that we realise that many of them were abused at home,” he notes.

The CPFSA continues to hold sensitisation sessions on missing children across the island, and a documentary drama series on actual cases is being aired on local television.

Mr. Thompson is encouraging parents and guardians to ensure that there is proper supervision of their children.

He says they should make a missing child report to the nearest police station as soon as the child’s location cannot be accounted for and should insist that the police take the report.

He says parents should know who their child travels with daily, know their friends, and where their child is expected to be at a particular time, and raise an alarm if the child is not where he/she should be.

Mr. Thompson points out that persons can volunteer to be trained as part of a search and rescue team.

“We have conducted training in a number of parishes, so we are appealing to members of the public to contact us if they are interested to be part of our search and rescue team. Persons will be trained in rescue and basic first aid, and the training is conducted by the Caribbean Search Centre,” he says.

To contact the NCR or any of the CPFSA offices, persons may call 876-948-2841-2 or 876-908-1690; or visit the agency’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages using the handle @cpfsajm.

Persons can also call toll-free at 888-PROTECT (776-8328) to report a missing child or contact the nearest police station.