Health Ministry Moves to take Children off the Streets

The Ministry of Health is moving to address the growing problem of children roaming the streets.Health Minister, Horace Dalley, has said that a team, comprised of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) retired police and army officers, would be formed to “rid the streets of children at nights.”
The Minister, who was speaking at the official launch of Child Month 2007 yesterday (April 4) at the Scouts Association Headquarters in Kingston, also pledged to prosecute parents, who neglected their responsibilities, noting that poverty or being a single parent “was not good reason to have small children begging on the streets at 1:00 a.m.”
“If it is the last thing I do before I exit public life it’s to ensure that parents are held accountable when they neglect their children and their children are endangered,” he stated.
The Minister called on Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke and Public Defender Earl Witter to “work with us to prosecute these parents whose self-indulgent behaviours are endangering their children,” noting that a brighter future for children hinged on their work.
“If we want to have a better society, if we as adults and parents really want to live in a country where we are free to move around and happy to be in, then we cannot lose the steam out of our advocacy for our children,” he pointed out.
The focus of this advocacy, the Minister said, should “ensure that government set correct policies, to ensure that we make resources available to the agencies of the state that have to deal with children directly and that we support those non-governmental organizations, which are working in the defence of our children”.
Mr. Dalley further commended the commitment of international and local advocates, who have worked with the government in launching a number of initiatives to address issues such as teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
He pointed out that, “it is not an easy road and not glamorous work (but) we need people who have love and compassion in their heart to be able to assist us to ensure that (children) homes are visited in a rostered way to show love and attention to children, who are wards of the state”.
The Minister noted that the theme of Child Month: ‘Fathers, your children need you’ was timely and saluted fathers, who have responded to the government’s most recent initiative to put their names on their children’s birth certificates, which are being issued free of cost to mothers before they are discharged from hospitals.
“This became effective on 12:01 a.m. January 1, 2007, and I am happy to say it has gone very well, and 90 odd per cent of those registrations have the father’s name on them, which is a very good sign,” he told the audience.
Mr. Dalley appealed for a forum for fathers to be included in Child Month activities, and asked corporate giants to help to sponsor this initiative.
In the meantime, the Health Minister informed that the government had already moved to put in place a recommendation put forward by the National Child Month Committee’s to assign guidance counsellors to basic schools and all primary schools. He said that to date, at least one teacher with training in guidance and counselling has been assigned to each basic school.
Mr. Dalley also endorsed other recommendations from the Committee, which require government to sensitize police officers to the needs of children; establish a National Mentoring Programme; develop and implement legislation, public policies and financial mechanisms that will assist children; collect and share data about the needs of children; and create incentives for organizations within the public and private sectors to expand and improve services.
Meanwhile, Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke in her message, called on the government to allow fathers into hospital delivery rooms as a way “to help fathers with their fathering”. She also appealed to fathers to be more dependable.
Highlights of Child Month, which will be observed in May, include a Church Service on May 6 at the Sts. Peter and Paul church on Old Hope Road and the annual Children’s Expo from May 10-13 at the National Arena in Kingston.

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