Friday, 4 July 2014

Increase Resources Needed to Fight Child Abuse

According to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) between January to September 2013 there were 8,527 reports of child abuse. As a society there is a tendency for us to become sidetracked with minor issues instead of focusing on the major issues. The latest saga which has captivated the nation’s attention involves the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice. Jamaicans for Justice is accused of introducing a sexuality course in six private children’s home without the approval of the Child Development Agency. The course was titled “Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health Responsibly” and the content was considered inappropriate for the children in state care.   
However, the main issue we need to focus on is the fact our children rights based institutions are desperately lacking in support from the government. A good example of this is the Office of the Children’s Advocate which continues to be understaffed and underfunded. As a result this organization is unable to respond in a timely manner to all the complaints that are ever increasing as more cases of child abuse cases emerge. More and more Jamaican are now coming forward with information as we fight against breaking the culture of silence.  
At a recent press conference, Child’s Advocate, Mrs. Gordon Harrison informed the nation that her office only had 4 investigators to serve the entire 14 parishes. This is most unacceptable and untenable.  Strangely enough this disturbing news has gone under the radar in the public’s domain. There has been no public outrage and we have continued with business as per usual. How can we feel comfortable knowing that only four investigators are employed to such an important entity such as the Office of the Children Advocate?
Additionally, it is very clear that we need to move urgently to decentralize the operations of the Office of the Children’s Advocate. We need to divide the country into regions and have regional offices in order to better coordinate and monitor the operations of this most important institution. Of course all these plans will require more funding from the State.
The reality is we don’t have the best interest of our children at heart. We have created institutions to look after the interests of the nation’s children while at the same time we have not given the adequate financial and human support which is necessary for them to do an effective and complete job. There is also an urgent need to employ more lawyers at the Office of the Children’s Advocate. Any society which uses its collective energies on peripheral matters instead of address the main issue is truly a society in trouble.
Yes, we are all aware of the financial constraints we face as a country, however, if we truly care and love our children as we profess we do then we would find ways and means to put in place adequate resources in order to safe guard the rights and well being of all our children.

Wayne Campbell