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Protect our children

Published:Monday | October 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Children from the Rehoboth Basic School, St Andrew, performing at the launch of 'Get the Picture, Drawing the Line Against Child Abuse', held at Emancipation Park, New Kingston, in November 2007.
Students from Port Maria New Testament Church of God Early Childhood Institution in St Mary.
Joy Baker had a horrible experience more than two decades ago when she lived on Orange Street, Kingston. A raging fire claimed several lives, including those of children. She decided then to dedicate her life to help children. She cares for more than 300 of them in and around the Southside community.
Students of Kensington Primary School, Portmore, St Catherine, perform a cultural item at the school earlier this year. - File photos
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Jamaica continues to celebrate 50 years of Independence. We have achieved a lot. However, there is much work left to be done if we are to progress as a country. We must begin to tackle Jamaica's chronic problems in a targeted and sustained way to make this country a better place to live, work and grow families. The Next 50 Years, a special series which we begin today, will spotlight some of the challenges we must fix in the coming years. We want to hear from you. Email us at editor@gleanerjm.com and join the debate.

THE STATISTICS are shocking! More than 2,000 children missing in the last year, 5,733 in state care, 25,023 reports of child abuse made to the Office of the Children's Registry between 2007 and 2011.

In spite of these, however, there have been many gains for children since 1962.

One of the greatest achievements was the removal of the Bastardy Act and its replacement with the Status of Children Act 1976, giving all children equal status and entitlement.

The Maternity Leave with Pay Act 1979 continues to have far-reaching results for the well-being of children.

As we move forward in the next 50 years, there needs to be more attention given to the protection of children. They should be taught how to protect themselves.

Parents must be held accountable where they knowingly fall short.

Safety in the home must be promoted through public education, and efforts made to support parenting and strengthen the capacity of communities to protect children.

All forms of media and cultural art forms, community and faith-based groups must be mobilised in this effort.

Programmes, plans and legislation to improve the experiences of children in the criminal justice system must be expedited.

Laws must be administered in a timely manner so the message is sent that when you hurt a child, you will be punished.

Services for children who are victims of abuse or who are disabled are grossly inadequate. This must be addressed quickly.

Let us work hard to make a positive difference for our children in the next 50 years.