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Action time! JFJ disappointed with Office of the Children's Advocate's report

Published:Monday | January 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

( l - r ) Dr Carolyn Gomes, Susan Goffe - File photos

Members of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) have expressed disappointment with the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) 2008/ 2009 annual report, submitted to the joint select committee reviewing reports of parliamentary commissions.

Speaking with The Gleaner following the parliamentary committee meeting last week, JFJ Executive Director, Dr Carolyn Gomes, described it as consisting of a litany of what's wrong and very little specific recommendations to fixing it.

"We see that office as being given extraordinary powers, including the powers of a judge of the court of appeal to investigate, summon and hold people accountable," said Gomes.

"We had the Armadale tragedy last year and a report from her office complaining about the problems. We only have 6,000 children in the care of the state. Quite frankly, we need to fix it."

Former chairperson of the JFJ, Susan Goffe, who also attended the meeting, said the OCA did not function at the same level as the ordinary citizen within the society, considering that it had been assigned legislative powers for a reason.

Resource issues the norm

She dismissed the OCA's statements that the agency's work was hampered by a lack of resources, noting there were always going to be resource issues. She said if this was the OCA's excuse to justify inaction, there was little chance of moving forward.

"I am a bit disappointed to have heard the children's advocate raising an issue and saying 'I have no solution and maybe the wiser heads in this body can find a solution'. I am not satisfied with that," said Goffe.

She said the Office of the Children's Advocate needed to summon the country's resources as it regarded finding the solutions and presenting them.

"If you've written your letters to the chief justice, resident magis-trates and heads of government departments, and you are not getting the change on the ground for the children, then you must use all means available; and bringing it to public attention is one of the ways of moving forward," said Goffe.

According to Goffe, attempts to get the relevant agencies to deal with issues regarding the abuse of children's rights had gone ignored.

"Children are still being put in the lock-ups four years after my office was established and six years after the Child Care and Protection Act deemed it illegal and getting no response," said Goffe.

"We do not need another bureaucrat as this country already has enough. We need someone who's going to be prepared to rock the boat on behalf of the children," Gomes agreed.

"We've got to keep that as the bottom line as it's not about the agencies. It's about the best interest of the children, not about protecting people's egos," she added.

'We do not need another bureaucrat as this country already has enough. We need someone who's going to be prepared to rock the boat on behalf of the children!'