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The Government is actively pursuing the development of a Child Diversion Policy aimed at addressing the needs of children involved in violent incidents, outside of the formal justice system.

This was disclosed by Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna on December 12 during an awards ceremony to recognise wards of the state at the Bank of Jamaica auditorium in downtown Kingston.

“We don’t want to have a situation in Jamaica where we have (more) children in lock-ups and we are building more juvenile facilities and so one of the things that we are actively pursuing is a Child Diversion Policy where not only Colonel Prendergast (Commissioner of Corrections) but Mrs. Carla Francis Edie (Chief Executive Officer, Child Development Agency) has gone to speak to the Chief Justice to ask her to ensure that we have a system where our judges don’t send children to remand if there is another system that can take place and we also now have before Cabinet a justice proposal for child diversion,” she said.

Ms. Hanna said the Ministry has been implementing several other measures aimed at ensuring that wards of the state are given due care.

To this end, she informed that since the start of the year, the resources of the Foster Care Programme have been boosted “to move the number of children in foster care from 53 per cent to 70 per cent; we are now at 63 per cent of children being in foster care."

"We realised that we needed a minimum of 10 more investigators in the Child Development Agency (CDA) system to assist us with reports etcetera, we now have the post for 10 additional investigators to come into the system,” she said.

She said that approximately 900 children have been placed in the foster care programme instead of state institutions.

"We realised that we wanted to keep children with their families and many times when things happen, the children are just brought to state care and we said ‘no’ we are going to make sure that we have two paid social workers, who are on staff so that when a child is brought (they will) find a suitable family for those children so if the mother can’t take care (of them), then we will find another relative. As a result of that plan, we have kept over 900 children out of state institutions,” she said.

During the ceremony 37 wards of the state, who achieved outstanding results in this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) were honoured.

Among the achievers was Makoy McNish, who received nine distinctions and one credit, adding to two other distinctions he achieved during 2011.