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The Honourable Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, is appealing to members of the society to get involved and become proactive in the fight to protect the children.
Addressing the Caribbean Child Research Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus yesterday (October 21) Minister Grange said that “no matter what we do as Government, and at conferences such as these, the society itself has to play the larger role.”
“I therefore want to make a fresh appeal to members of the society to please get involved and become proactive in the fight to protect our children. Take up your phones and call the Office of the Children’s Advocate or the Child Development Agency or the police and report your suspicions. It is better to report and be wrong about your suspicion than not to report and then hear that the child is maimed or killed. I beg of you, let’s become all our children’s keepers.”
Miss Grange said she was calling on groups such as the National Parent Teachers Association, the service clubs, various care providers, everyone who has a heart and a part in raising our children.
“And in this appeal, I want to single out the operators of public transportation who continue to have lewd, loud and outrageous music blasting in their buses and taxis. I am saying to them do not wait for the authorities to force them to comply with the law. Do it voluntarily for the sake of your own children and for Jamaica’s future.”
The Minister said that for their part, successive Jamaican governments have consistently expressed concerns about the treatment of our children, and the fact that the society seems to be losing the desire to protect them from the evils which threaten their childhood.
She said that in response, in 2004, Parliament passed the Child Care and Protection Act, and in 2006, the first Children’s Advocate, in the person of Miss Mary Clarke, was appointed.
Miss Clarke’s main functions, the Minister said, includes:. Reviewing laws, policies, practices and government . services affecting children . Providing legal services and related assistance to children. Responding to requests made through the island’s Courts for representation on behalf of children affected by or involved in legal proceedings. Investigating and hearing complaints against government authorities and providing reasoned decisions and recommendations for action . Implementing regular child participation, stakeholder consultation and public education programmes. Providing advice on the interpretation of the Child Care and Protection Act . Publishing reports and issuing best practice guidelines regarding any matter concerning the rights or best interests of children
She said the Office of the Children’s Registry has been in existence since January 1, 2007, to receive, record, and store data on the maltreatment of Jamaica’s children.
The Registry receives, assesses, and refers reports of child abuse to different organizations.
Minister Grange added that the Child Care and Protection Act, makes it the duty of every adult, to report every incident or suspicion that a child has been, is being, or is likely to be ill-treated, abused, abandoned, neglected, or is in need of care and protection.
The Minister disclosed that the emergency task force set up by the Prime Minister to review the situation has presented a number of short, medium and long-term strategies to better protect the country’s children.
“The immediate strategies we wish to implement will include the establishment of a three-digit emergency number where children in crisis can call and report cases of abuse. “Cable and cellular providers are being asked to work in association with the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN), to display photographs and carry information on missing children.
“In fact, several cable stations have committed already to support a public education programme which will be spearheaded by the JIS to assist in the campaign to protect the nation’s children.
“The Ministry of National Security has also been instructed to strengthen the capacity of its Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, (CISOCA).”
Minister Grange continued that Mr. Golding had instructed the Child Development Agency (CDA) to provide each agency with a breakdown of the specific recommendations as they relate to the individual agencies, so that a plan of action can be developed for implementation.
She added that a Sexual Offences Bill is to be brought to Cabinet within the next two weeks and a National Advisory Council to administer the provisions of the Child Care and Protection Act is also to be brought to Cabinet within the next two weeks also.
“These actions ladies and gentlemen, have been taken because of Government’s deep concern over the violence to which so many children have become victims,” the Minister said.
She expressed the hope that the conference, with the theme “Promoting Child Rights Through Research – Building a Region fit for Children”, would provide more suggestions and solutions derived from the research and conference deliberations.