JIS News

With the incidence of child abuse on the rise, the Office of the Children’s Registry has been carrying out a very crucial task in helping to speed up the response times for the investigation of cases.
The Office of the Children’s Registry has been in existence since January 1, 2007, and was established to receive, record, and store data on the maltreatment of Jamaica’s children, and is in keeping with the Child Care and Protection Act of 2004, which speaks to the mandatory reporting of all types of child abuse, whether it is suspected or already happening.
Newly appointed Registrar of the Registry, Mrs. Carla Edie, tells JIS News that the Registry receives, assesses, and refers reports of child abuse to different organisations.
“The Office of the Children’s Registry really receives information supplied by persons, who are required to make a report because they suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abandoned, neglected, physically or sexually abused, ill-treated, or is otherwise in need of care and protection. The Registry assesses the report to determine the place of referral,” Mrs. Edie noted.
Reports are usually referred to two service partners, either the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), or the Child Development Agency (CDA). Mrs. Edie also informs that regulations stipulate that when a case is referred, whether to the OCA or the CDA, they are mandated by law to give the Registry an update on the case, at least once per quarter.
The Registrar further informs that anyone who suspects or knows that a child is being abused must make a report to the Registry, noting that victims can also make reports.
“Children have called and have made reports that they are being abused. However, there are certain persons who are called mandatory reporters, which means that they are mandated by law to make reports to the Registry. 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,” Mrs. Edie emphasises.
Mandatory reporters are those people required by law to report child abuse. These are persons who, by the nature of their profession, execute some form of care toward a child, such as physicians, nurses, dentists, other health professionals, hospital administrators, owners of daycares or operators or employees of a child care centre or institution, guidance counsellors, teachers, principals, or any other person who, through their profession, has a duty of care towards children, or any person who has knowledge of child abuse.. “Every Jamaican is responsible for making reports,” Mrs. Edie stresses.
She assures that the calls made to the Registry are kept confidential, in that, the name of the caller, if given, is not divulged when the report is being referred.
“There are incidents or cases, where persons will call and give all the information. The child or children can be easily located if they refuse to give their name that’s okay. So if they call and have all the relevant things that make the report and we are able to locate the child, we are not going say we are not going to take the report from you because you don’t want to tell us who you are,” the Registrar points out.
“When a case is referred to us,” she continues, “we do the assessment, because you know there are those cases, in terms of the action, the action has to be immediate. So when we do the assessment, we determine whether or not the action should be immediate. If it is immediate, it means that an investigation has to be done immediately.”
She notes, however, that the Registry does not carry out investigations. “When the registry gets the report, we log the reports, we do an assessment of the report, and then we determine the places of referral. The Registry does not investigate. It’s the OCA or the CDA which does the investigations. The Registry is really a repository for cases of child abuse, so we will have the data,” Mrs. Edie explains.
“So for example, if you call and you say to us. ‘could you tell me the number of children who have been sexually abused in St. Catherine for the month January to June last year’… then we would be able to tell you,” she notes further.
Additionally, the Registrar says there has been an approximately 400 per cent increase in the number of reports received at the Registry.
“Sometimes we receive about 10 calls per day. For the year 2007, we had 418 reports, and between January to June this year, we had 1592 reports. So it means we have almost a 400 per cent increase in reports. Most of the calls come through the toll-free line,” Mrs. Edie informs.
She points out that the majority of the reports received, were for neglect, and care and protection issues, then physical abuse, with the victims being mainly boys. This was followed by sexual abuse, affecting mainly girls.
“For the month of June, (there were) 142 cases of physical abuse; sexual abuse -137; neglect – 223; care and protection – 270; truancy – 17; behavioural problems – 102; absconding – 7; trafficking – 4; substance abuse – one; emotional abuse – 23; and incest -16,” the Registrar tells JIS News.
Mrs. Edie urges individuals to make reports, if they know or suspect that a child is being abused, pointing out that more persons have been calling in to make reports, as their fears of reprisal are being dispelled.
Anyone wishing to contact the Office of the Children’s Registry, may do so by dialling the toll free number: 1-888-PROTECT (1-888-776-8328).