JIS News

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, has emphasised that the marked increase in reports of child abuse to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), does not translate to increased incidents of child abuse in Jamaica.
Mrs. Clarke was responding to international media reports of an increase in the incidence of child abuse in Jamaica.
Speaking with JIS News, she explained that an investigation follows all reports filed and many of the reported cases have not yet been investigated or confirmed. She cited the significant impact of the 2007 establishment of the OCR as one reason for the increased reports, noting that “wherever a children’s registry is introduced, there will automatically be an increase in reported cases.”
“This is for obvious reasons: You have introduced a toll free line for persons to report child abuse, you have sensitised the public about child abuse, you have assured them of confidentiality and protection,” she stated.
Mrs. Clarke has further attributed the increased reports to extensive public education efforts by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and other agencies. The public, she explained, has been sensitised about what constitutes abandonment, child in need of care and protection, and other forms of child abuse. She said that this has now led to more people calling in to report situations, which beforehand, would have been ignored.
Admitting that the figures are indeed worrying, particularly as it regards the message that it conveys about the safety of the nation’s children, the Children’s Advocate is calling for urgently needed resources to respond to reports and to implement public education programmes, to “help to prevent and stem the scourge of child abuse in Jamaica…we want to ensure that we have the resources to deal with them,” she said.
Mrs. Clarke pointed to the need for more investigation officers including, forensic investigators, who she noted, “are able to collect strong evidence that can be carried to the courts,” and counsellors to provide psychosocial support to children who are also visiting or calling the OCR to file reports.
“We do not only need to respond to reports, we also need to concentrate on the resources available to deal with the increasing number of reports,” she said. She also revealed that since the establishment of the registry, there has been an increase in reports against authority figures.

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