Sharp increase in the number of parents seeking to turn their children over to the State
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Data from the Child Develop-ment Agency (CDA) indicate that between 2005 and 2011 at least 10,500 children with behavioural issues were turned over to the State by parents who could no longer cope.
And the number could be much higher as it does not include those children who are taken directly to the CDA, while the data for the 2011-2012 year is still being collated.
Prudence Barnes, public relations and communications manager at the CDA, explained that in many instances the children who are "beyond control" are taken by their parents directly to a police station.
These children are then taken before the courts and do not necessarily have any contact with the CDA intake desks.
"The information is statistics from CDA intake desks. Just to point out that there is additional information that could be garnered from court records, but that will take a bit more time," Barnes told The Sunday Gleaner.
However, the numbers from the CDA are alarming enough.
They show an approximately 25 per cent jump in the number of children being taken by their parents or guardians to the state agency because of behavioural problems.
"The number of children brought into CDA's intake desks for behavioural issues has shown a marked increase between 2005 and 2010, according to our data," said the agency.
Behavioural issues continue to be the highest category of children taken to the CDA's intake desks.
For example, in 2010-11, the number of children taken into the CDA for behavioural issues represented some 40 per cent of all cases seen.
It was followed by neglect which stood at 17 per cent, and a category, 'other' - which includes, child labour, trafficking, children picked up on the streets and other forms of abuse and maltreatment - which stood at 20 per cent.
Sexual abuse represented 9.46 per cent of the cases received at the CDA intake desk for 2010-2011, while physical abuse represented 7.81 per cent.
"In the instances where some of these children are brought to the CDA intake, the agency provides interventions before the courts get involved," the CDA revealed, while adding that an estimated 95 per cent of the children taken to its intake desks for behavioural problems were taken by their parents or guardians.
"Following this, a child must be taken before the court by the parent/guardian for a judge to decide where the child is to be placed.
"Section 24 of the Child Care and Protection Act allows children to be brought before the courts for behaviour that is beyond control by a parent or guardian," the CDA explained.
The agency also pointed out that it has been employing alternative measures to assist families to cope with children with behavioural and other problems before the situation escalates to a court appearance.
"Therefore, where more children (from CDA intake) may have ended up before the courts in previous years, the CDA is now providing counselling and other interventions through its Children and Family Support Units to help keep families together where possible," the agency said.
The support units were established to provide interventions for vulnerable children and families identified through reports made to the Office of the Children's Registry or through the CDA intake services desk.
According to the CDA, the support units aim to provide counselling to children and families, keep children within families and redirect them from the courts.
This would eliminate the need for the children to enter the child-protection system.
The support units also engage partners in the social-protection sector to help families gain access to social-intervention programmes, which if not accessed may result in a child being moved into the formal child-protection system.
The CDA believes the support units have been making a difference, even though it has not yet fully assessed the impact.
"However, generally speaking, since its inception in 2009 up to December 2011, the team has provided support for 1,236 children and their families. Of this number, less than two per cent were eventually taken before the courts," the CDA boasted.
At a press conference last December, Lisa Hanna, minister of youth and culture, gave the indication that "more and more parents were handing their children over to the State because they were unable to provide parental guidance and support". However, Hanna did not say how many.