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Hanna demands answers on sex-ed course for state wards

Published:Tuesday | June 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
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Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has demanded an explanation from the Child Development Agency (CDA) in light of reports surrounding the unauthorised sexual education programme being implemented by human-rights group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) in six privately operated children's homes.

In a release yesterday, the youth ministry said initial reports to Hanna suggest that the content and material used in the sexual education programme might not have been age-appropriate.

According to Hanna, if that is correct, it would be a severe breach of the operating guidelines for children's homes upon which licences were granted.

She has ordered the CDA to contact the homes and have them end the course immediately, a month ahead of schedule.

The CDA, which has responsibility for the regulation of children's homes and places of safety, reported last week that it only became aware of the initiative through a newsletter issued by the JFJ recently.

In her letter to the CEO of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, Hanna requested a report on the circumstances which led to the programme being implemented for eight or nine months without the agency's knowledge.

MATERIAL SUITABILITY

The minister also wants to know the suitability of the material used in the children's homes for the wards.

Hanna emphasised that responsibility for the safety, well-being and protection of children included ensuring that they were exposed only to age-appropriate information in their best interests, as well as material and information which are consistent with regulations governing the care of wards of the State and Jamaican laws.

The release from the youth ministry came less than 24 hours after the New Nation Coalition, led by children's rights advocate Betty-Ann Blaine, asked for answers from Hanna about the programme and demanded information on what action will be taken.

"Even more important is the matter of who the children are and what are their ages," said Blaine.

"We have noticed that JFJ describes the children as 'marginalised', but that would apply to close to one-half of the Jamaican youth population. JFJ needs to explain to the Jamaican people exactly how 'marginalised' the children they singled out are, and how different those children are from the large population of children who are vulnerable due largely to poverty, dispossession and poor parenting," added Blaine.

She also demanded information on the six children's homes.

"Which homes are we talking about? Who runs these homes? And what type of training are the children being exposed to?"

But Hanna said she has already received the names of the homes that are implementing the programme and will report to the public on the findings of the CDA.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com