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PM: Parents, shape up!

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

JAMAICANS SHIRKING responsibility for their children are being warned to shape up or suffer dire consequences when the parent commission comes onstream.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, while speaking in Parliament this week, said the State would no longer allow bad parents to get away while children became disadvantaged because of their poor discharge of parenting functions.

"We are going to have to send a signal to parents that if you are not prepared to honour your obligation to your children, then don't have them," Golding told the House of Representatives Tuesday night.

"If you have them and you are not prepared to honour those obligations, then you are going to be punished. We are going to have to start making it clear that the discharge of parental responsibility for children is not an option," he added.

The prime minister's statement came on the same day three reports from the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) were tabled in the House.

One of the reports, which examined the state of children in lock-ups, revealed that as of November 4, 2009, there were 61 juveniles in police custody, 58 of whom were males.

Additionally, 409 juveniles were being held in correctional facilities, 98 more than the ideal capacity. Figures from the Department of Correctional Services indicate that 53 girls were being held at Fort Augusta, the island's only women's prison, and 36 children were being housed at the Horizon Remand Centre.

Parenting deficit

"Children in lock-ups has now become an issue of national concern, and the OCA is calling on the relevant authorities to immediately identify a facility for children on remand," stated the Special Report to Parliament on Children in Lock-ups.

Golding told Parliament that the number of children in lock-ups was a result of "a parenting deficit" that had befallen the country. He told the House that the United Nations rapporteur on torture was in Jamaica, at the invitation of the Government, inspecting facilities in which children are being kept.

"Part of the problem is that, the number of children that the State has had to take into custody, as bad as our custody is, it is a little better than what they were exposed to before," the prime minister said.

According to figures from the Child Development Agency (CDA), a total of 5,890 children were in the care of the State as of December 2007. The breakdown is as follows: 1,160 were in foster care, 783 were home on trial, 1,596 were in children's homes, 846 in places of safety, 1,342 were under supervision orders and 163 were classified as being under other care.

Parliament has long signalled its intention to hold parents more accountable for their children, with Central Kingston Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites moving a motion for the Registration, Birth and Death Act to be amended to make it mandatory to require a father's name on the birth certificate.

His suggestions was followed up last May by Golding's announcement that Cabinet had given instructions for the amendment to be drafted.


'We are going to haveto send a signal to parents that, if you are not prepared to honour your obligation to your children, then don't have them.'