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Minister of State for Education and Youth, Senator Noel Monteith, has raised concern about the provision in the Child Care and Protection Regulations for the withdrawal of recreational activities as a form of punishment for children in state care.
“I have always taken objection to anybody using the subject area of physical education and sport as a means of punishment. It is for me a normal, regular subject area and nobody ever say that they are going to take away children from Mathematics,” he stated.
Senator Monteith, who was contributing to the debate on the Child Care and Protection (Advisory Council) Regulations and the Child Care and Protection (Children’s Home) Regulations in the Senate on Friday (July 13), argued that recreation or sports should be used as a means of changing behaviour, rather than punishment.
The regulations, which are companion legislation to the Child Care and Protection Act, restrict punishment to temporary loss of recreation; isolation from other children; and forfeiture of rewards and privileges, including pocket money.
The Senator also raised objection to the isolation of children as a form of punishment, stating that, this can be “much more traumatic than a little slap on the wrist.” He noted that when students are isolated, “no one knows what they might do to themselves. Some children are seriously afraid of being alone, even if light is there, and it can be very traumatic.”
According to the Senator, the regulations were silent on the verbal abuse of children and how to restrain those who become violent.
“Nothing is said about oral or verbal abuse of children. Sometimes, what you say to a child even have a more lasting effect on that child than a little slap.
Everybody likes to jump on corporal punishment, but not many people seem to do research,” he said.
“Talk to adults and they will tell you that when somebody told them that they were no good, and they had no use and call them ‘idiot’ and things like that, the type of effect it has had on them for over long periods in their lives,” he continued.
In the meantime, Opposition Senator Anthony Johnson said he was pleased about the regulations, but felt that there is need to ensure that children are disciplined without being abused. “Children must be disciplined without abuse. We need to ensure that discipline remains a tool of correction and guidance, rather than a tool of debasement and abuse,” he said.
He added that, “I hope a forum is found, preferably within the ambit of the child care and protection system, to train people in how you raise children in Jamaica without abuse.”
The Senator recommended that members of staff at children homes should be trained in alternative disciplinary measures so as to avoid abuse.
Leader of Government Business, Senator A. J. Nicholson, while acknowledging the concerns of the Senators, said he did not have the expertise to address all the concerns raised by the Senators.
He said that what was obvious was that both sides wanted to ensure proper care and protection of the children, and promised to pass on their concerns to the Child Development Agency.
The regulations, which were approved on July 10 in the House of Representatives, will govern the establishment and control of children’s homes in Jamaica. They also address the child’s right to be fed, clothed, to access health care, to express themselves, to privacy, to freedom from corporal punishment and to legal representation.
There are 62 residential child care facilities for which the Child Development Agency has regulatory responsibility. Of the total, 13 are operated by the Government of Jamaica, and 49 are privately owned.