Half the children reported missing last year not found
At least 1,500 of the nation’s children reported missing in the last five years have not been found, even as the number of reports continues to trend down.
Data from the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA) show that between 2017 and 2021, some 6,686 children were reported missing.
Of that figure, 5,106 children have since been located. Females accounted for 78.6 per cent.
The CPFSA said that last year, 893 children were reported missing, of which 425 – or 47.6 per cent – have been located.
“Over the years, we have continued to record worryingly high figures of missing children,” said Annadjae Roberts, Ananda Alert officer at the CPFSA.
She was speaking during Friday’s ceremony to mark the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the CPFSA and other partner agencies to the Ananda Alert System at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew.
Roberts said the figure for 2021 was the lowest figure on record, with St Catherine seeing the highest number of children going missing, with 176 reports made between January and October.
Kingston and St Andrew had the second-highest number of reports – 134 – followed by Clarendon’s 69.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Roberts said that 1,066 missing children reports were filed, the second-lowest figure recorded.
In 2019, more than 1,500 children were reported missing.
“We have continuously seen a decline in the number of children reported missing and we have a pretty steady and a pretty high rate, but we’re coming from years where even more children were reported missing,” Roberts said yesterday.
The officer pointed to 2013, when 2,206 cases were reported, 14 of whom were found dead.
One child found dead
Only one missing child was found dead last year.
“This is still one child too many. We have made some progress over the years, and we continue to see this gradual reduction, but it is still too high, and for each child that is found deceased, [it] is still too much,” said Roberts.
She said that since the CPFSA was transferred to the Ministry of Youth, the agency has been able to make significant progress in reducing the number of reports through partnerships with several stakeholders.
Roberts said that the agency was able to publish a search-and-rescue protocol outlining the steps to be taken when seeking to locate missing children.
Roberts said also that the agency has staged two missing children conferences and has developed a partnership with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
The CPFSA, among other things, has also formed a partnership with Facebook to share alerts of missing children in Jamaica’s geographic area. She said that the challenge with that partnership, however, is that the social media site requires that alerts are shared within 24 hours of the child’s disappearance.
“We’re still seeing in Jamaica where most persons are waiting until the next day, until 24 hours have passed. So, we’re not able to capitalise on that system,” she said.
Additionally, Roberts said that the agency places significant emphasis on intervention with families.
“The moment that matter is reported, we are there with the family guiding them through the process, guiding them through the difficulty that this time or this situation would bring, the frustration, the anxieties. Of course, once that child has returned home or has been recovered, we provide additional psychosocial intervention,” she said.