Letter of the Day | More mergers for child-safety bodies
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I commend the Government on its merger of the Office of the Children's Registry and the Child Development Agency. But I am concerned about the narrative that comes with it. Some days ago in the news, it was reported that the merger was part of the Public Sector Transformation/Modernisation Plan, which was set out by the International Monetary Fund so to do.
It was posited that the merger would achieve the Government's bid to lessen the cost on the country's wage bill. Quite rightly, in a logical perspective, such a move can be understood, especially when 80 per cent of your budget is poured into wages and debt servicing.
However, on the popular morning time TV show, 'Smile Jamaica', State Minister Floyd Green explained that the move was not about cutting cost, but that there was inefficiency and unaccountability in the state-run organisations.
I have asked the question time and again, what is the real purpose of many of these children's organisations? There is the Child Development Agency, Office of the Children's Registry, Office of the Children's Advocate, and the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).
Who does what? What does who?
There will always be overlapping of duties and functions by these entities, therefore it creates and breeds inefficiency. If a child is missing, who is to be called? If a child is being abused, who is to be called? Noting that there are various types of abuse, to what agency do we call and report these atrocities?
My recommendations to the Government are:
1. Clearly define the age of children in the context of the Laws of Jamaica. The lines are blurred where a child is someone aged 0 through 18, but a 16-year-old can legally consent to being involved in sexual activities.
2. Redefine the term 'consent' and do not limit it to sexual involvement. Broaden the terminology to include a legally accepted age of drinking and smoking.
3. Change the age of consent to 18 years old, which would also apply to the age at which one can be legally employed.
4. Merge all state entities with responsibility for children.
4a. Establish a single Department of Children Services within the Ministry of Youth.
4b. A unit within the Department of Children Services to be called 'The Children's Registry Unit' whose primary function would be the recording of births and deaths of children.
4c. A Unit within the Department of Children Services to be called Child Abuse Detection and Prevention Unit. This unit would also be given special prosecutorial powers in tandem with CISOCA.
5. Establishment of a universal truancy policy in the nation's schools. This policy will seek to account for every child in school on any given day.
6. Implement a national children's census, which is separate from a national census. This will capture a true record of the state of our children so we could adequately plan a future for them.
KEMAR A. BROWN
Manley Meadows, Kingston