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The Ministry of Justice has signed a $10-million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to strengthen the National Child Diversion Programme.

Child diversion works by steering children away from the criminal justice system and, instead, using a holistic approach to improve the child’s behaviour through other methods, including counselling support and mentorship.

Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, speaking at the Ministry’s Quarterly Press Briefing, today (December 9), expressed gratitude to UNICEF for their continued support.

“I have had discussions with UNICEF and indicated to them that we want to roll out a bit more. They see what has been achieved. For the rest of the fiscal year to March, they are giving us an additional 10 million dollars. They have given us much more than that, so far, many times that amount, but they have decided to give us an additional 10 million dollars for Child Diversion and we thank UNICEF for this great interest and support,” Minister Chuck said.

The press briefing was held at the Justice Ministry’s Head Office, at 61 Constant Spring Road in Kingston.

The funds will be allocated towards the continued work of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), which will be able to continue treatment for children identified with substance abuse issues. National Child Diversion Consultant, Ruth Carey, in an interview with JIS News, said funding will support the critical service offered by the Women’s Centre Foundation of Jamaica (WCFJ).

“Generally, the WCFJ provides counselling and education related to sexual and reproductive health. Also, if we do have any girls that are pregnant, we provide support for those women because that’s the mandate of the agency. They also support our boys by offering parent education to those who may become teen fathers. Funds will also go towards supporting the Public Education Campaign and the Programme’s Monitoring and Evaluation Framework,” Ms. Carey explained.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Country Representative, Mariko Kagoshima, acknowledged the impact the National Child Diversion Programme is making in Jamaica.

“This year, it made a difference in the lives of the 130 boys and girls who were diverted by police officers and judges away from unnecessary incarceration and denial of their liberty, and in some instances away from court appearances. We are also pleased that the funds will support needed psychosocial interventions for boys and girls who need substance abuse counselling and advice concerning sexual reproductive health,” Ms. Kagoshima explained.

Since the official start of the programme, 14 Child Diversion Offices were operationalised, 14 Parish Child Diversion Committees established, and 18 MOUs signed with providers to deliver drug abuse treatment, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) counselling and other mental health services.

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