The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and the multi-sectorial partners on the Ananda Alert system have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide a more effective response to the issue of missing children in Jamaica.
The parties have agreed to strengthen cooperation and information sharing on the reporting, investigation, and return/recovery of a child who becomes the subject of a missing person report.
Ananda Alert, implemented in 2009 to assist in ensuring the safe and speedy recovery of missing children, has seen a return or recovery rate of approximately 85 per cent.
Addressing the signing ceremony at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew on April 8, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Maureen Dwyer, said the multi-sectoral and multi-agency approach is critical to effectively respond to the issue of missing children in Jamaica, as the factors contributing to child disappearances are wide and complex.
“Through this collaborative effort, we are signalling to Jamaica and the rest of the world that the issue of missing children is everybody’s concern. We have to get involved. We cannot stand aside and just bemoan the fact that our children are missing,” she said.
Ms. Dwyer noted that while the number of missing children has gradually trended downward, particularly between 2018 and 2021, there is still cause for concern.
Chief Executive Officer, CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, said the MOU signing is another major step in furtherance of the mandate to safeguard the well-being of the nation’s children.
“The new Ananda Alert MOU is a more robust workplan providing a comprehensive framework for collaboration toward our main goals,” she noted.
Founder, Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine, in her remarks, said all Jamaicans should play their part in building a society that is fit for children.
She noted that the MOU represents a commitment “that we will do everything we can to combat the problem of missing and abducted children and to labour unceasingly to keep them safe”.
“For Ananda Alert to work optimally, it requires all Jamaican citizens to do their part – parents, families, communities and the wider Jamaican society and it is only by working together that we can truly continue to build a Jamaica that is fit for children,” she stressed.
Ananda Alert mobilises both public and private sector personnel, civil society groups and communities to work with law enforcement officers to assist in the safe and speedy recovery of missing children.
This is due to abduction, kidnapping, being a runaway, absconding, child trafficking, or any other reason resulting in the inability to reasonably account for a child’s whereabouts.
The parties to the MoU include the: Ministry of Education and Youth; CPFSA which houses the Ananda Alert Secretariat; Jamaica information Service (JIS); Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA); Ministry of Health and Wellness; Ministry of Justice (MOJ); Ministry of National Security (MNS); Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA); Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ); Hear the Children’s Cry; Registrar General’s Department (RGD); National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC); Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS); Jamaica Library Service (JLS); and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Statistics from the CPFSA indicate that between 2017 and 2021, there were 6,686 reports of missing children made at police stations across the island. Data compiled at the end of each year show that 5,106 of those children were located, with 1,560 still unaccounted for.
The majority of children who are reported missing are females, accounting for 78.6 per cent of all reports, while males account for just 21.4 per cent.
The Ananda Alert system is Jamaica’s Missing Children Recovery Strategy. It replaced the Red Alert, which required a 24-hour wait period for report and investigation into a missing child’s case.