Save our children! - Stakeholders endorse child summit proposal
A call by Betty Ann Blaine, convener of the advocacy group Hear the Children's Cry, for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to convene an emergency child summit, aimed at improving the welfare of the nation's children, has found favour with key stakeholders tasked with protecting the rights and ensuring the well-being of the country's most vulnerable.
According to Blaine, the summit would help to bring critical stakeholders together to formulate a list of implementable actions that could result in improvements in child safety and child welfare.
She argues that the summit and the emerging action plans should ideally be convened and launched in January, since this is the time when companies are making plans for the months ahead and people are more optimistic and energised.
SENDING A STRONG MESSAGE
"We think a move like having endorsement and leadership coming from Mr Holness would send the strongest message across the society, that as a nation we are taking the matter of child security seriously," said Blaine.
"It is important to note that we are not calling for a 'talk shop' for the emergency summit, but for the swift production of a doable action plan, a shortlist of implementable actions that can be mobilised right away.
"We are calling for the prime minister to bring together all the critical stakeholders in the society, such as those in government, civil society and the private sector, and including those who may have been overlooked in the past, such as community, citizen and parenting groups, and especially youth groups," added Blaine.
In endorsing the call, chief executive officer at the Child Development Agency, Rosalee Gage-Grey, said any initiative that could result in tackling the abuse of children should be explored.
"Anything that is going to be a positive move to help with the prevention of child abuse and to restore our children, we would fully support," said Gage-Grey.
"I think all of us as stakeholders in the child protection sector need to be on the same page because we are dealing with a monster here," added Gage-Grey.
Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said she would definitely be on board if such a summit is convened, but she does not necessarily agree that it must be held in January.
"I think that is absolutely excellent and quite on point because it is collaboration that will get us moving forward. Particularly the Church and the faith-based community, I think that is a very good place to start," Gordon Harrison told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Dialogue is always good, so if it is that we can get it together for the right reasons and it is not just another talk shop, then it is something that we think would be quite beneficial," she said.
Registrar of the Office of the Children's Registry, Greig Smith, noted that while convening a summit with varying stakeholders to conduct a social audit is good, he really wants to see more action than anything else to tackle the issues affecting children.
"At the end of the day, the Office of the Children's Registry would have seen a number of children being abused. We are a far way over the 11,000 mark on a yearly basis now. We are talking about close to 2,000 children going missing despite a 10 per cent reduction in the number of reports," said Smith.