The Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA)is reporting that it received 1,778 complaints of incidents relating to infringements of the rights and welfare of children over the five-year period leading up to December 2010.
These include cases involving violence against children, including physical and sexual abuse; sudden deaths of children in state care; children of parents, who are incarcerated; children in the justice system, among others.
This was disclosed by Social Development Consultant, Bridgette McDonald-Levy, while presenting a five-year review on the OCA during a press conference on Tuesday (February 15) at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Of the complaints received, 1,034 have been investigated, with 452 closed, while 330 remain active and 43 are pending for follow-up. The agency makes representation in court on behalf of children and also refers cases to relevant organisations and agencies for investigation.
Mrs. McDonald-Levy informed that the office works closely with the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children’s Registry and the OCA “to do many activities including ensuring that anyone who calls, is being dealt with by the correct agencies, as there is potential for confusion in the agencies.”
Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke informed that the agency’s work with its partners has significantly reduced the number of cases handled by the OCA.
“With the operations of the Office of the Children’s Registry and a better understanding of the role of the OCA, many of the child abuse cases were diverted or sent straight to the Office of the Children’s Registry. Before the Registry, we didn’t turn away anyone, we still don’t, but we accepted every complaint,” Mrs. Clarke said.
Meanwhile, in a document highlighting the achievements of the office over the five-year period, it was noted that a system is now in place to monitor the actions of the relevant authorities to which complaints are referred annually.
This is made possible through a computer database that helps with tracking complaints sent to the OCA by other agencies of the state to ensure they are fully investigated.
“Every single call that comes into the office is logged – it is put into a computer-based system and it is put into a physical book so that there’s openness and transparency and anyone can look and see what’s happening where,” Ms. McDonald-Levy said.
The OCA was established in 2006 with the purpose of protecting the rights of children.
The agency has been carrying out its mandate by representing children in courts and tribunals, visiting children in facilities to ensure compliance with the law, giving policy and legal advice, and undertaking public education campaigns to inform children of their rights and how to protect themselves.
CONTACT: CHRIS PATTERSON