Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna announced yesterday that her ministry was now actively pursuing a more effective approach to monitor and manage children in need of care and protection as well as children in conflict with the law.
Addressing an inter-ministerial and inter-agency working group, Hanna tasked them with a number of issues and announced a strategic six-point approach that her ministry would undertake to address the issue of children in state care. They include enlisting the assistance of local and international partners; appointing competent and resourceful persons to work with the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the various children's boards; making submissions to Cabinet on the use of the resources; lobbying for additional funding for children's homes; ensuring government funding for social workers at the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA); and working with other agencies and ministries to arrange proper accommodation for children in custody.
The group was also charged with reviewing the recommendations of the 2010 'Report of the Task Force on the New Regime for Juveniles in Remand and Correctional Facilities in Jamaica'.
Over the past two weeks new concerns have been raised over how the state monitors and manages children in conflict with the law, following an article published in the Gleaner about a 14-year-old girl who got pregnant and gave birth while on trial for murder.
Several conflicting reports subsequently emerged as to the state's involvement with the teen and the CDA was called on to provide answers. Among those demanding answers were the attorney for the teen, Elham Bogle, Jamaicans For Justice and Help JA Children.
During the meeting, Hanna noted that another urgent area being dealt with by the group was ensuring clarity where existing legislation is perceived to have created areas of overlap or possible gaps in relation to the responsibility, role and power of State agencies, such as the CDA and the Department of Correctional Services, in suitably accommodating all children when they come in conflict with the law.
In addition to Hanna, the working group includes Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding; permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Robert Martin; Commissioner of Corrections Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast; Deputy Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent; Chief Executive Officer of the CDA, Carla Francis-Edie; CDA Board Chairman Maxine Henry-Wilson; Acting Children's Advocate Justice Henderson Downer; and representatives of the Office of the Children's Registry, the Attorney General's Chambers, as well as the Ministries of Justice, National Security, Finance and Planning, Education and Health.
The working group will meet weekly at the Ministry of Youth and Culture in order to complete its work in the shortest possible timeframe.