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Story Highlights

  • The CCPA, which was passed in 2004, is now being reviewed to address deficiencies.
  • Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, said that the revision comes against a background of changes in the society.
  • The Child Development Agency (CDA) is making strides in tackling some of the issues, such as separating adults from children in detention centres.

Depriving children of their liberty should be seen as a last resort in the court system, especially for first time offenders and those committing non-violent offences.

This is among a slew of recommendations in a draft policy outlining changes to the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA), on which consultations are being held islandwide, before they are finalized for presentation and consideration.

The CCPA, which was passed in 2004, is now being reviewed to address deficiencies, create harmonization with other child-centred legislative frameworks and to strengthen the protection services of children.

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, said that the revision comes against a background of changes in the society.

“One of the strategic objectives that we put in place last year was the revision of this policy, because we recognize that over time, our law has to change to become more conducive to the environment that we live in, and therefore the environment that children live in. We are seeing other things that are being perpetrated on them and so we now have to design the law in a way that deals with it,” the Minister explained.

Ms. Hanna was addressing a national consultation on ‘Proposed Policy Amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act and the CCPA Children’s Home Regulations’, on February 11 in Kingston.

She urged participants to pay special attention to the mental health interests of children as they deliberate on the policy document, pointing out that even though “we are not living in a war torn country,” violence is having a serious effect on the behaviour of many children.

Ms. Hanna noted that it is not just media violence to which the children are exposed, but also violence in the home.

The Minister argued that the issues affecting children cannot be solved overnight, but with the help of everyone, “we will be able to make progressive steps, not only with legislative changes, but also with physical changes with how we respond to one another.”

She also pleaded with the adults to move away from the concept that ‘it is not my child, so I cannot say or do anything’. “There was a time when we did not have that mindset.… It doesn’t matter that the child is not your child, if you see a child doing something wrong on the road, it is your responsibility as a parent and as a member of society to correct that child, to find help for that child,” she said.

“If a child is doing something wrong at school, let us find out what is happening. The only way we are going to solve the problem is if all of us get involved,” the Minister emphasized.

She informed that the Child Development Agency (CDA) is making strides in tackling some of the issues, such as separating adults from children in detention centres; getting Cabinet to sign off on the removal of the uncontrollable behaviour label from a child in conflict with the law; and implementing a mobile therapeutic bus which has on board a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker.

Acting Chief Executive Officer, CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, informed that since the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act,  several care and protection issues, such as trafficking, child pornography, kidnapping and missing children have risen in importance. She also cited some aspects of the law, particularly the issue of the treatment of children deemed by the court to be out of control, which have become very controversial.

“The Commission to review the CCPA sought therefore to examine some of these issues, identify other new and emerging matters, look at the shortfalls of this critical legislative framework in achieving its objectives as was envisaged in 2004, and to address the evolved and some say continually evolving agenda of child care and protection in Jamaica,” Mrs. Gage-Grey said.

Attorney-at-law, Tania Chambers, outlined the proposed policy changes under seven different headings. These include revising the Institutional Mandate of the Child Development Agency (CDA); Children in Conflict/Contact with the Law; Supervision of Children in Families; Improved Regulation of Residential Child Care Facilities; Care and Protection of Children with Special Health and Developmental Needs; Improved Protection from Child Labour, Exploitation and Exposure; and Strengthening the Mechanisms for Mandatory Reporting.

Another national consultation is set for Thursday, February 13, in St. Ann.