There has been a 28 per cent reduction in the number of children reported missing from January to April of 2020, when compared to the similar period last year.
The National Children’s Registry (NCR) received 384 reports of children missing for the period, in comparison to the 532 reports last year.
This was disclosed by Acting Registrar at the NCR, Warren Thompson, during an interview with JIS News.
He said that concerns have been raised about the vulnerability of children as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, especially those who go missing.
According to Mr. Thompson, the Registry, through its various social media platforms, has been encouraging children to stay home at this time, even if they have desires of running away.
Research has shown that many children run away from home because of intra-family violence/conflicts. The likelihood that a child will run away is reduced if families are able to reduce/resolve their conflicts peacefully, and desist from using physical or emotional violence among themselves. Therefore, parents and caregivers are being advised to seek intervention when there are conflicts at home.
Mr. Thompson said that children should be taught safety habits, such as being aware of strangers/stranger danger, walking in groups, loudly saying “no” or drawing the attention of others when someone makes them uncomfortable.
“They should also be taught healthy online habits, including not revealing personal information, not meeting up with strangers, sharing with a trusted adult when something they experience online makes them uncomfortable,” he added.
He informed that in Jamaica, most of the missing children tend to be runaways, because of peer pressure or a desire for freedom, while others may get lost or abducted.
Mr. Thompson is advising adults not to harbour children in their homes without the express permission of their parents.
He pointed out that in many cases when children disappear, they went to stay with friends without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
The Acting Registrar said the adult whose home they visit has a responsibility to find out who the child is, and make contact with his/her parents to verify that the parents have given permission for the child to visit.
According to the Sexual Offences Act, the maximum penalty for persons who unlawfully take or causes a child to be taken from the care of their parents is 15 years.
It is also an offence under the Child Care & Protection Act for a person to harbour or conceal a child who is in the care of the State and/or has been committed to a Fit Person. However, it is not currently an offence for persons to harbour children who have run away from their parents/their private home.
The NCR is a Department of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA). It has a mandate to receive, record, assess and refer for investigations, all reports of child abuse and neglect.
The Registry receives reports for children who exhibit behavioural problems or are otherwise in need of care and protection. Since 2013, the NCR has managed the Ananda Alert Secretariat, which works with the police and other stakeholders to coordinate the missing children recovery and response.