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Office of the Children's Registry issues warning despite reduction in missing youths

Published:Wednesday | September 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

While the Office of the Children's Registry is again reporting a 10 per cent reduction in the number of children who go missing, Children's Registrar Greig Smith is advising parents to be on the alert, especially with the start of the new academic year.

The registry last year reported that there was a reduction in the number of children who had gone missing when compared to 2014.

Smith told The Gleaner yesterday that, for January to June this year, 787 children were reported missing, when compared with the same period last year which recorded 872.

"For the number of children going missing, we encourage parents to make sure that you have the most recent photo of your child. Children who are going to new schools, ensure that they know their addresses and that the school has information for all relevant parties," Smith said.

"If you're sending somebody for the child that wasn't initially planned, let the school know, so that all the proper arrangements can be made. Reduce the amount of information we put online. Last night (Monday), we would have seen a number of parents posting pictures of their children in their uniforms on social media, and while nothing is wrong if you celebrate your children, we have to be careful," he said.

He indicated that the organisation continues to keep a close eye on Trelawny, Clarendon, St Thomas, and St Mary as areas still showing signs of concern.

The registrar also told The Gleaner that a lot of work needed to be done in assisting teenagers to understand their sexuality, as statistics are still pointing to girls between 13 and 17 as the primary victims.

"(Some) children simply want to get involved in sexual activity. They want to go off with their friends. There was the trend where, quite often, during the summer holidays, as it gets close to Boys and Girls' Champs and Christmas, we would have seen somewhat of an increase," said Smith.

"We are working with the Parenting Commission to help parents understand the changes that take place in children and how we adapt, because how we were grown 20-40 years ago can't be the same strategy used," he said.

He noted that there have been a number of initiatives implemented which would have led to the reduction, including psychosocial interventions and interaction with children.

Smith, however, pointed out that with more collaboration and partnership, more can be done.

"We have strengthened our working relations with the Jamaica Constabulary Force, so once the child goes missing, sometimes we are able, in quick succession, to report that the child has returned home or that the child has been recovered," he said.