As we celebrate Child Month 2014, we pause to reflect on our nation’s children and how we, collectively, as parents, care givers, policy makers and indeed everyone responsible for providing care to our children, have met and fulfilled our responsibilities.
I am heartened that there has been significant progress on several fronts.
We have reduced infant mortality, which means fewer children die within a year to five years of being born. We’ve reduced the number of children, younger than five years old, who are considered to be underweight; we achieved this through improving nutrition and reducing poverty. And Jamaica continues to be counted among the countries that offer access to primary education to all its children.
Those are achievements about which we can all be proud.
However, while we take note of our achievements, we all must be deeply concerned by the evidence that we are failing to care for and protect some of our children. The Office of the Children’s Registry received more than 6,000 reports of child abuse within six months — January to June of last year — with the majority of the reports being for neglect of a child.
The apparent rise in parental neglect is a worrying development that we must address as a matter of urgency. Therefore, the Ministry of Youth and Culture is pleased with the theme for this year’s Child Month — “Parents, take responsibility: Break the cycle” — which puts parents, as they should be placed, as the primary caregiver in the raising of children providing love, nurture and care.
That is why it is our policy that children should only be put in residential care facilities as a last resort.
However, understanding the difficulties that some parents face in fulfilling their obligation to their children, the Ministry, through the Child Development Agency, has made parental assistance one of our priority activities. Indeed, it is very clear that if we are do all we can for our children we must ensure that parents lead. And so we are very pleased that we have been able to develop best practices for effective parenting – making a difference for nearly 1,500 parents who participated in the CDA parenting assistance programme in 2012/2013.
However, ‘the village’ also has a role to help “start children off on the way they should go”. So during this month, I urge you to take a special interest in the nation’s children. Let us lift them up this Child Month. Encourage them. Look out for them. Look after them. And celebrate their achievements. We are ‘the village!’
Lisa Hanna, MP
Minister of Youth and Culture