Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming:
Today, I wish to update the nation on challenges being faced by the Residential Sector of the Child Protection System, specifically, and also to give a report on some of the larger problems that are affecting our nation’s children. At the end of this statement, I will take questions.
Let me begin by providing a brief overview of the system.
There are 58 residential facilities in Jamaica that offer care and protection to children who are in need. The vast majority of these facilities are privately-operated. Only eight are run by the Government. However, all of the Residential Child Care Facilities are regulated by the Government and all of them get budgetary support from the Ministry of Youth and Culture, acting through the Child Development Agency.
The Government of Jamaica spends J$1.7 billion a year to fund the Child Development Agency — which has responsibility for Children’s Homes and Places of Safety on the island. We spend more than J$436 million to operate the eight Government-run children’s homes and places of safety. At the same time the Government spends another J$721 million per year to take care of the 1,823 children across the privately operated children’s homes and places of safety. In addition to this, the CDA also provides financial assistance to wards of the state in family environments including children in foster care, on Supervision Orders and in the family reintegration programme.
This is a hefty bill for a tiny country, with a small economy — and unthinkable in a country that was built on our special kind of familial tradition. When I was growing up the neighbours were ‘aunty this’ and ‘uncle that’. We were all family. Now we have a situation where the family has broken down to such an extent where we are seeing too many parents abandoning their children, otherwise abusing them or carting them off to Police Stations, the Child Development Agency and the Courts for so-called “uncontrollable behaviour”.
When children are abandoned and abused, it is our responsibility to take care of them. It is our duty to give them not only shelter and protection from their abuser, but also to provide them with the therapeutic intervention to address the physical and psychological harm they have suffered…READ MORE