Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Call for social children's audit

Published:Thursday | December 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Betty-Ann Blaine

Harsh poverty conditions, in addition to concerns regarding parenting, are issues stakeholders believe have stymied childcare and protection in Jamaica, leaving them to call for robust measures - including a social children's audit - that would aid in reducing incidents of abuse.

Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of children's lobby Hear The Children's Cry, said going forward, it would be critical that opportunities are created to alleviate poverty among parents and children.

"Working for over a decade as advocates for children, one of the things we have come to recognise as perhaps the biggest problem is the high level of child poverty in our country. I believe the statistics show that some 40 per cent of our children live below the poverty line. What that means, therefore, is that the State needs to allocate significantly more resources to childcare and protection," she told The Gleaner.


Aggressive advocacy


Noting that she was prepared to be even more aggressive in advocating for the country's children in the coming year, she bemoaned the fact that parent migration continues to be a serious issue, and, as a result, proper assessments need to be done to establish the necessary solutions.

"I am calling on the State to do a proper child audit in communities, assessing the state of the children, home by home. It might sound like a big job, but the politicians do that at election time. They know everybody in every yard," she said.

"An assessment of what is the state of children in these communities across Jamaica, particularly the poorest communities, is needed. We have to determine 'Are they in school?' 'Who do they live with?' Who are their caregivers?' We can't fix the problem if we don't know," she said.

Greig Smith, registrar of the Office of the Children's Registry, said that despite achieving a 10 per cent reduction in the number of children who went missing since the start of the year, more care should be taken in protecting the most vulnerable.

"In general, for 2016, the gap was really the lack of synergy from the citizenry coming together for the protection of the nation's children. We had too many children dying on the streets in motor vehicle accidents; there were too many children who were being abused; and the data has shown that we are going to surpass the 11,000 mark regarding reports of children who were abused," he said.