Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, is warning that the Government will not tolerate the ill-treatment of children in state care, noting that persons found quality of such conduct will be immediately dismissed.
“These things are not going to go unnoticed. And we have started to audit the children’s homes, and if you are abusing the children, you will no longer be working at the children’s homes,” she stated.
Miss Hanna was speaking at a national policy workshop on ‘Qualitative Survey on the Situation of Youth in Jamaica’ held on June 26 at the Wyndham hotel in St. Andrew.
Her warning came against the findings of the study, commissioned by the Ministry and the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), in which children in state care report ill-treatment from caregivers, including being denied meals.
“They report that, if they talk to a girl, they are punished. Sometimes they are flung against a wall,” she said, noting that in one case, a child reported that “staff at the institution hit my head on a grill’. She said children also documented situations where they were not fed.
The report stated that in all but one of the children’s homes and places of safety visited, there were marked disparities between the providers’ versions of the young people’s realities and the accounts the youth supplied.
“In some of the very institutions where caregivers reaffirmed their commitment to provide love for the children and young people in their care, the youth interviewed offered damming commentaries on the treatment they received,” the report said.
Miss Hanna said the children are of the perception that they have no rights and cannot express their feelings, and has pointed to the need for transformation in the attitude of staff of the facilities in ensuring the proper care and treatment of children.
The situation analysis, undertaken through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is part of a four-pronged research process, which also comprises the National Youth Survey, Electronic Youth Programmatic Inventory and the Gap Analysis. The aim is to assist the Government’s efforts to rectify gaps in legislation, policies and programmes affecting the youth and to put appropriate systems in place for their development.
The findings are categorised under two broad headings: ‘ Historical injustices, structural constraints, intergenerational transmissions and youth’; and ‘Lifestyle choices, emerging trends and mixed roles for youth’.
Miss Hanna said the document can be viewed as “perhaps the single most important piece of evidence that we have produced this year to help shape and guide some of the decisions that we will be taking, and some of which have been taken”.
She informed that the report highlighted several issues young people face, including their disconnection from society, and will play an integral part in driving and shaping programmes towards their empowerment.
She noted that the Ministry has already embarked on several initiatives to facilitate the growth and development of children, who are in the care of the state.
“We are trying to do so many things to rescue our children’s homes, changing policies to move forward in foster care, getting more resources to give to the children’s homes,” she said.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter