Minister Hanna Issues Child Month Statement

Date Published: 
Thursday, May 2, 2013

Youth Minister condemns child abuse, urges greater parental
and community responsibility, and outlines government child programmes

[Child Month Statement by the Hon. Lisa Hanna MP, Minister of Youth and Culture]
 

The Ministry of Youth and Culture welcomes the observance of May as Child Month even as recent media reports of abuse of children, including cruelty and neglect by parents, provide a disturbing backdrop for this annual commemoration. The Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) has received more than 3,000 reports of child abuse so far this year, an increase of 300 compared to the 2,700 cases reported during the same period last year. I know that all well thinking Jamaicans join me in condemning these outrageous acts. However we must go further to report instances of abuse and to show greater levels of love and support to children whether as parents, family or community members. The care, protection and wellbeing of children must be everybody’s responsibility beginning with parents. Communities are also being enlisted in this effort through the establishment and maintenance of Child Protection Committees at the Parish level.

The Ministry of Youth and Culture remains conscious of its mandate to promote the protection and wellbeing of the nation’s children and to ensure the existence of a robust policy framework that encourages and facilitates their most favourable development. While we carry out our children affairs efforts with sensitivity and determination every day and all year round, the month of May provides an occasion to highlight the importance of children’s issues and to make a concerted national appeal for children to be protected, nurtured and loved.
 

Childhood is undoubtedly the most important stage of human development, representing at it does the formative years when impressions, attitudes and value systems are shaped and when the social and educational foundations are laid for adult life. Jamaica’s children represent the generation of citizens who will fashion our society’s future and determine Jamaica’s level of success and standing in the world during the next 50 years of nationhood and beyond.

With this in mind the priority programmes of the Ministry during the 2013/2014 fiscal year includes the creation of an updated National Policy for Children; the implementation of outstanding recommendations of the Keating Report pertaining to children in state care; the review and development of recommendations for amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act, the Adoption Of Children Act, and attendant recommendations; as well as the implementation of a five year National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence in Jamaica. We have also embarked on a process to place 70 per cent of children who are in the care of the Child Development Agency (CDA) into caring and nurturing families.

As we celebrate children during May the Ministry of Youth and Culture through the OCR is assuming responsibility for the Ananda Alert Programme to locate missing children and reunite them with their families. The programme is being integrated into the OCR operations and a Memorandum of Understanding, which covers a partnership arrangement with vital stakeholders, will be signed this month as we seek to improve the effectiveness of the initiative.
During May the OCR will continue to roll out the OCR Clubs in Schools as well as to introduce its team of Special Children Ambassadors as we intensify the public education campaign to alert children, parents and caregivers about the facts and their responsibilities in the effort to reduce child abuse. This month we will open two new registration centres for the reporting of child abuse in Manchester and St. Ann.
 

The fight against child labour and trafficking is receiving attention at the level of the Government as we prepare to observe International Day Against Child Labour in June and against the background of recent successes by the CDA and the Police in uncovering and prosecuting trafficking in children.

Ensuring the protection and wellbeing of children requires vigilance, sensitivity and care, and also places an urgent call on the limited resources of the State. Increased allocations to children affairs in the Government’s 2013-2014 Budget, amid widespread cost containment across various sectors and ministries, demonstrates that the government has given priority status to the care and protection of the nation’s children.

We are also making good progress in addressing some of the longstanding issues facing children, particularly those in state care. As part of the work of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Children in Detention, which I convened last September, the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing has allocated $75 million under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) Secretariat to construct facilities where children who come in contact with Police can be accommodated separately from adults at five police stations across Jamaica.

The Working Group is actively pursuing a multi-agency approach to the issues facing children who come in contact with the justice system. This work involves entities such as the Ministries of Youth and Culture, Justice, National Security, Health, Education and Finance and Planning; as well as the Department of Correctional Services, the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the OCR, CDA, the Police, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Commissioner of Lands. The Working Group has identified long term remedies and decisive short term action to immediately address some of the pressing challenges encountered by children in detention. The Group has submitted to Cabinet for approval a range of proposals to significantly improve the circumstances of children in detention and to reduce their numbers.

A top priority is the construction of a Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre for girls and the equipping of at least one Police Station per parish where children who come in conflict with the law or are removed from abusive situations by the Police, can be properly, sensitively and speedily processed. The creation of a model Place of Safety to provide therapeutic medical care for children placed on remand and correctional orders by the Court for issues related to “Care and Protection” and “Uncontrollable Behaviour”, is also high on the agenda.

 

The work being undertaken also seeks to create a policy and operational framework that ensures, among other things that the placement of juveniles in institutions is done as a last resort, children in detention are kept separate from adults, special training is provided for police and correctional officers who deal with children, and that juvenile justice procedures and decisions at all times ensure the wellbeing of children including the speedy resolution of juvenile cases.

Already the Ministry of Youth and Culture, the Edna Manley College, the National Gallery and the Jamaica cultural Development Commission are implementing an arts therapy and development programme in juvenile correctional institutions. The CDA has also been instructed to provide social workers to liaise with the Courts to seek reviews of the cases of children who have been institutionalized for uncontrollable behaviour.

This collaborative approach to solving the problems facing Jamaican’s children has included the formation of a Children Support Taskforce. The taskforce comprises members of civil society, lobby groups, representatives of government ministries and agencies, youth leaders, the police, the church, associations such as the Nurses Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Teachers Association, the National Parent Teachers Association and other professional groups. The work of the taskforce aims to building public awareness and knowledge of issues pertinent to the care, protection and development of children in Jamaica. It also seeks to mobilise positive action in areas such as improved parenting, family planning, wholesome family life relations, child preventive and rehabilitative wellness and generally to assist in creating a national commitment for helping all in the society become better nurturers of our children. The taskforce is also providing support to the Ministry of Youth and Culture and its agencies in actions, approaches and solutions to issues affecting children.

The Ministry of Youth and Culture continues to adopt a focused management approach to our responsibility for children affairs and this has included a full audit of all Children’s homes and places of safety which is nearing completion. The audit also involves a critical examination of the structures and procedures of the CDA to ensure maximum efficiency in service provision to our children. The management overhaul includes revamping the management structure of some children’s homes.

This extensive work on behalf of our children will go way beyond Child Month and requires the input of all. Let us use Child Month to renew our resolve to act decisively and boldly in the interest of Jamaica’s young human resource assets and nation builders – our children, on whose shoulders rests the future of our nation, Jamaica land we love.

Honourable Lisa Hanna MP
Minister of Youth and Culture