JIS News

Mary Clarke, a veteran educator and former senior projects personnel with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), has been appointed Children Advocate to operate as an ombudsman on matters relating to children.
The position was created under the Child Care and Protection Act, which came into effect in March 2004. The appointment became effective on January 1, 2006 and Mrs. Clarke will operate temporarily out of an office at the Ministry of Health headquarters in downtown Kingston, which will be manned by a staff complement of 19 persons.
Minister of Health, John Junor in introducing Mrs. Clarke to the media at the Ministry on Wednesday (Jan. 11), explained that one of the most far reaching provisions of the Child Care and Protection Act was that it stipulated the establishment of an office for the Children Advocate to act in legal matters on behalf of children.
“The Children Advocate will operate similar to an ombudsman for matters affecting children and will therefore play a vital watchdog role for all agencies and organizations that have a mandate related to the care of children,” he explained.
He further informed that the process of recruitment began with advertisements in mid-2005. “I am very pleased to announce today, that coming out of that process, we were able to select someone, who we believe has the attributes that should be embodied in an advocate. Someone who has the breadth of experience, the clarity of thought and the ability to adjudicate in matters that require judgment,” the Minister stated.
Mrs. Clarke, in her response, signalled her commitment to operate at the highest level of professionalism and service. Her responsibilities, she said, would be wide and varied and would entail at all times, representing and promoting the rights and the best interest of the child.
These will include, reviewing laws and practices and making recommendation for changes in the interest of the child, in addition to legal representation and any other assistance to children if and when needed.
“The office will also be responsible for investigating and hearing complaints brought on behalf of children. The Children Advocate will report to Parliament and to the public in general on the functions of the office and where investigations are undertaken, and the public needs to know the outcomes of the investigations, such reports will be provided,” Mrs. Clarke assured.
The immediate objective, she said, would be to disseminate information and increase general awareness on the role and functions of the office of the Children Advocate.
Mrs. Clarke has played a vital role in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, which led to the crafting of a National Plan of Action for Children and the formulation of a National Policy for Children in 1997.
Out of this emerged a task force and monitoring committee, which drove the legislative process leading to the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act.