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Alison walks - CDA head calls it quits after six years

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Embattled head of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Alison Anderson-McLean, has quit, ending a six-year tenure marked by stinging criticisms of her performance.

Health Minister Rudyard Spencer confirmed last night that Anderson-McLean submitted her resignation three weeks ago, but said he could not discuss her reasons for throwing in the towel.

"We are actively trying to find someone now. We are interviewing people and, as soon as her period of notice is up, we will have someone in place," Spencer promised.

The health minister said Anderson gave one month's notice.

Resignation 'overdue'

Last night, the CDA head did not respond to telephone calls. In a swift response, executive director of Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), Dr Carolyn Gomes, called Anderson-McLean's resignation "overdue".

"We are not convinced that the situation for children in Jamaica has changed for the better under her watch," said Gomes, whose organisation has led the chorus of criticism against the CDA head.

"Her focus has been far too much on covering up and establishing paper trails rather than implementing systems to improve the lives of children," she added.

Gomes suggested Government advertise the post throughout the wider diaspora so that "we can interview the best applicants and choose the best candidate".

Late last year, Gomes called for Anderson-McLean's resignation, arguing that she had failed to make positive changes in her role at the helm of the CDA.

She said findings of abuse at children's homes from 2005 to 2006 were horrific, and recommendations were made with several subsequent promises going unfulfilled.

Presenting half-truths

Accusing the Government of presenting half-truths about the state of children's homes in a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the JFJ said in November that the document claimed no cases of abuse were seen in children's homes in the country.

However, JFJ spokesperson Susan Goffe revealed that the organisation got documentation from the Access to Information Act, which was collected by the CDA's monitoring officers and showed that there were several cases of abuse at five different children's homes. For the period in question, the CDA had been stating that no abuse cases were seen.

Last night, Gomes said it was when this information came to light that JFJ felt Anderson-McLean's resignation was necessary.

Anderson-McLean has been the driving force behind the CDA, which is an amalgamation of the Adoption Board, the Children's Services Division and the Child Support Unit.

The CDA is mandated to tackle tough issues, including child labour and the general protection of the nation's children.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com