JFJ Press Release: Jamaicans for Justice presents four questions for Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna to answer…

Jamaicans for Justice presents four questions for Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna to answer in her contribution to the Sectoral Debate on May 20.

Monday, May 19, 2014 – Kingston, Jamaica – The Minister of Youth and Culture’s presentation in the Sectoral Debates tomorrow provides an important opportunity to report on the result of government action to improve the welfare of Jamaica’s children and on policies to be implemented during the upcoming year. The impact of these measures on Jamaica’s children is of utmost importance. Jamaicans for Justice has longstanding, ongoing concerns regarding the situation facing some of Jamaica’s most vulnerable children and looks forward to the update the Minister will provide. Four questions that we pose to Minister Hanna are:

1) What is the status of the Child Care and Protection Act review?

There is urgent need for amendments to this legislation to ensure improved care and protection of Jamaica’s children. Therefore the Minister is obliged to give an update on the current state of the review process and timeline by which the draft amendments will be brought to Parliament and subjected to consultation and debate, and ultimately passed.

2) When will the management and process audit findings of the CDA and the operational audit findings of the nation’s children’s homes be released?

In 2013 Minister Hanna commissioned a management and process audit of the CDA and a “thorough operational audit” of all children’s homes – private and public. When will the findings of these audits be released? It is essential that the government agency responsible for the welfare of Jamaica’s children, CDA, is held to public account, and facilities providing direct care and protection for children operate at required standards. Information on CDA’s capacity and resource gaps demand a full airing of the audit results. Recent stories of physical and sexual abuse within children’s homes heighten the urgency with which these audits must be presented.

3) What progress, if any, has been made on the Minister’s commitment on compliance with international and local obligations by the end of 2014?

In 2013 Minister Hanna committed that by the end of 2014 Jamaica will be in full compliance with international obligations regarding the protection of rights and treatment of children. Therefore, the Minister is duty bound to provide the nation with an update on the status of this commitment, providing specific details on what measures have been taken and how these bring Jamaica into compliance. The Minister’s update is to include information on outstanding areas of government non-compliance and an action-plan to secure full compliance by December 31, 2014.

4) What is the status of Minister Hanna’s commitment on actions to be taken insofar as children who are labelled “beyond control”?

In 2013 Minister Hanna promised that by the end of that year the Child Care and Protection Act would have been amended to eliminate incarceration as an option for children labelled “uncontrollable.” This has not happened, though policy directives have resulted in a reduced number of these children placed in correctional and remand facilities. Though commendable, policy directives are discretionary and insufficient. Therefore, the Minister is obliged to take legislative action on this issue as she promised a year ago. Further, the Minister is to indicate the additional support services that have been and will be provided for this vulnerable population of children within families and in state care, as strategies to provide care and protection for children outside of institutional settings require substantial resources.