Black Immigrant Daily News
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Jamaica has expressed concern about the findings of the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s (OCA) report on questionable relationship between the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and Embracing Orphans/Carl Robanske.
In a release on Thursday, UNICEF said the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), of which Jamaica is a signatory, clearly outlines the right of every child to be properly cared for and protected from violence, abuse and neglect.
It added that the CRC further states that children and young people have the right to special protection and help from the state if they are temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment.
However, UNICEF noted that in Jamaica, as in many countries around the world, girls and boys in care and justice institutions are at heightened risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
UNICEF expressed the view that strengthening the operations, responsiveness and accountability of the child protection system in Jamaica is critical to safeguard children in the society, especially those who have been placed in institutions and alternative care settings, from the full spectrum of risks.
The UN agency said a recent UNICEF-commissioned Evaluation of the Child Protection System in Jamaica highlighted serious challenges relative to coordination, oversight, monitoring and resource allocation in the sector, especially in relation to the most vulnerable.
“There is a critical need for greater Government investment in Jamaica’s child protection system. The current polices and services urgently need to be strengthened to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children and to safely maintain children in families,” said the UNICEF release.
“There is the need to invest in and strengthen the capacities of the social service workforce at all levels so that the rights of the children and the families they serve can be better protected. It is only through increased child-focused public expenditure and a concerted effort to strengthen the child protection system at all levels, that we can reduce the reliance on external funding sources that can potentially threaten the rights and safety of our young people,” UNICEF added.
It said given the nature of the reported abuses, “it is essential that the young people (who were impacted) receive the requisite support to address their physical, mental and psychosocial needs as soon as possible.”
UNICEF called on the Government to seriously examine the findings in the OCA report, along with the recent evaluation of the child protection system, and provide the necessary investment – financial and technical – in the overall child protection system and, importantly, the CPFSA, to ensure that the rights of all children (in Jamaica) are protected at all times.
UNICEF said remedial actions should include interventions to prevent family separation by providing timely access to community-based social services for children and families at risk, strengthening the family-based alternative care system and services, including programmes designed to transition children from institutional care to family and community-based care.
Additionally, it said there is urgent need to enhance the oversight mechanisms, such as vetting, reference checking, investigation and disciplinary measures to prevent grave violations of children’s rights.
“UNICEF Jamaica reiterates its commitment to work with the Government, civil society and other partners to develop and strengthen laws, policies, services and practices that protect children from violence in all settings and in all its forms,” the release concluded.
As per its mandate, UNICEF supports Government and non-governmental partners to promote and fulfil the rights of children, especially the most disadvantaged.
The agency serves across more than 190 countries and territories.