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Speech

1. In light of the recent developments that were brought to national attention by the Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), a commitment was given to address issues presented by the application of the provisions of section 24 of the Child Care & Protection Act (CCPA).

2. Under section 24 of the CCPA, a parent or guardian may bring a child before the court because the child may be deemed “beyond control”. Where the evidence before the court discloses that the child is indeed beyond control, the court may make certain orders to address the issues with the child. The court may only make an order if it is satisfied that:

a. it is expedient to deal with the child in a certain manner; and

b. the parent or guardian understands what will happen to the child once the court makes the order, and consents to the making of the order.

3. Currently, the orders that the court can make are:

a. a correctional order, under which the child will be sent to a juvenile correctional centre; or
b. an order under which the child may be committed to the care of any fit person, being a relative or some other person which is willing to take care of the child; or

c. an order under which the child is placed for a period, not being more than 3 years, under the supervision of a probation and after-care officer, a children’s officer or some other person.

4. The issues highlighted by the JFJ were issues that the government contemplated, and which were also addressed by the Office of the Children’s Advocate. Consequently, when the Child Diversion Act was being developed, certain provisions were included to provide more and better options to deal with the children deemed beyond control, especially since these children are in fact children in need of care and protection, according to section 8 of the CCPA.

5. It was also recognised that certain deficits in parenting may have contributed to a child exhibiting maladaptive behaviours and a more therapeutic approach may be necessary in their best interests.

6. As a result of these realities, the provisions in section 34 of the Child Diversion Act, gives the court more options to deal with a child deemed beyond control. Further, amendments were made to section 24 of the CCPA to include those orders that will obviate with the need to resort to the issuance of a correctional order by the court.

7. One such order will be a referral to child diversion through which the child will be evaluated by the relevant experts having regard to:

(i) What is in the best interests of the child;
(ii) The nature and circumstances of the child misdeeds/behaviour;
(iii) The recommendations of the court;
(iv) The parent or guardian of the child;
(v) The socio-economic conditions of the child;
(vi) The impact of the child’s misdeeds and behaviour on the community at large.

8. All aspects of the Child Diversion Act will come into force on December 31, 2019 including the amendment to section 24 of the CCPA, and as such, the current issues regarding the incarceration of the category of children deemed beyond control will be addressed.

9. Additionally, one recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on the review of the Sexual Offences Act, among others, was to include provisions in the CCPA which will mandate that parents who exhibit certain deficits, to attend parenting classes and get additional support where necessary and available.

10. Notwithstanding the steps already taken to address the needs of our children, this Government will continue to dialogue with all stakeholders to find solutions to safeguard our children and assist in their overall development, recognising their vulnerability and dignity; the need for child-sensitive solutions; determining individually, their best interests and their right to participate in the conversations about their well-being.

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