Youth Minister Lisa Hanna has said she does not have the authority to remove children from the custody of the state and place them in the care of private groups.
Hanna made the disclosure yesterday in response to a recent proposal from charity group, Mustard Seed Communities.
Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, who heads the Mustard Seed Communities, wrote to Hanna last year asking her to approve an arrangement that would allow a group led by his organisation to take on the care and rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law.
In his letter, Ramkissoon also asked that the budgetary subvention in place to care for these wards be turned over to his group to help cover the costs involved.
Yesterday, he charged that she provided a lukewarm response, indicating simply that the proposal was noted.
But speaking during the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of St Andrew, Hanna said under Jamaica's existing legislative framework, the responsibility for children in "different situations" is spread across several ministries and state agencies.
She described the proposal as "well-intentioned", but sought to make it clear that she was not authorised to "unilaterally commit government buildings and recurrent expenditure on behalf of other ministries".
"While things like this are appreciated, it can't happen overnight that way, and I would welcome persons to understand that reality," she noted.
Despite this, Hanna said the proposal was still being discussed with the ministries of justice and national security along with the Attorney General's Department.
"What we are looking at is whether it is possible because we do have other facilities that are carrying out these functions," she explained.