JIS News

The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) continued to assist in protecting the nation’s children by intervening in matters related to the infringement of their rights throughout 2008/2009.
According to the OCA’s annual report for the period, the office closed 43 of the 83 cases, which were brought forward from the previous year, and 40 are at various stages of investigation.
Some 280 cases were assigned to the agency’s two Investigation Officers (IOs) for follow-up and by March 2009, 50 of these were closed, with most of the others at various stages of investigation. The other cases, which were not slated for investigation, involved requests for legal assistance, advice or intervention, and some of these were also referred to other agencies for action.
In carrying out investigations, the IOs visited 80 institutions, which included 19 places of safety, 12 correctional centres for children and adults, 33 educational institutions, four hospitals, and 13 police stations.
The report, which was recently tabled in the House of Representatives, said 44 of the complaints received were for criminal matters, which were reported to the police and the centre for the investigation of child abuse and sexual offences.
Many of these resulted in the charge and arrest of offenders including parents and family members, teachers and other school officials, child care facility workers, taxi operators and other adults.
“Special note must be taken of two parents, who were given court sentences for abandoning and neglecting their children,” the document highlighted.
The OCA also directed complaints of abuse, abandonment and neglect to the Office of the Children’s Registry, and conducted its own preliminary investigations into some of these cases. A total of 20 cases were referred to the Child Development Agency and counselling was sought for some children, who were abused and some who had to attend court.
According to the report, the OCA’s involvement proved “very useful in vindicating child rights for the period”.
It noted specific success stories such as one in which the OCA had successfully intervened in a case where a victim of Hurricane Dean, whose house was destroyed, had her children taken into the care of the CDA. While the victim passed away during the year, a house was delivered to the guardian of the children. “The OCA continues to monitor this case with a view of family reunification and social assistance for the children,” the report said.
Other success stories include the provision of assistance for two HIV-positive children to enable them to receive medication and admittance to a public hospital in one case, and a children’s home in the other case. The OCA also assisted parents to acquire birth certificates for six children.
In addition, the OCA carried out investigations after receiving reports of under-aged children being solicited at a nightclub by adults. The OCA’s intervention resulted in communication with the club owner and ongoing periodic monitoring by the police.
Meanwhile, IOs were integral in enabling 12 students, who were expelled, to be re-admitted to school.

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