JFJ Calls on the Government to Provide Children with Effective Care, Support and Protection
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, Kingston, Jamaica – Within the past two months various disturbing reports reconfirm sustained abuse and neglect of Jamaica’s most vulnerable children in state care. Reports include a Homestead Place of Safety investigation that revealed an alarming culture of gross neglect, lack of support, random violence, mismanagement and lack of accountability. Homestead has also been reported to have nine fewer staff members than needed and children in conflict with the law are placed there to interact with those in need of care and protection. As a result, Jamaicans for Justice repeats our request that Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, publicize the findings on the children’s homes and places of safety audit report that she commissioned in December 2012. Further, JFJ calls on Minister Hanna to update the public on subsequent steps that have been taken to improve our child care facilities and better serve the children. Meanwhile, JFJ joins other concerned citizens in questioning the state’s commitment to protect and support vulnerable children in its care and renews its demand that children in state care are provided with effective care, support and protection.
The following four additional incidents including one death of a ward of the state that have been reported in the media within the past two months:
· Feb. 6, 2014 –24 year old disabled ward of the state, Melissa Francis, was hospitalized as a result of injuries she sustained from an assault by a Walker’s Place of Safety staff member.
· Feb. 16, 2014 – A 15-year old boy shared his harrowing years of abuse and repeated rape while in various child-care facilities. Consequently, the boy prefers to face the dangers of living on the streets to returning to St. Augustine Place of Safety.
· Feb 27, 2014 – On February 20, the body of 16-year old Carlene Young, a ward of the state at Granville Place of Safety, was found in a shallow grave. Carlene’s death was not reported to her mother who stated that prior to Carlene’s death all her attempts at getting the Child Development Agency to relocate her daughter had proved futile.
· An 18-year old former ward of the state with a learning disability shared her story of being homeless. This echoed another news story that is consistent with reports that an increasing number of former wards are living on the streets.
“These incidents are disturbing in their predictability and reflect the urgent need for reform in our child care and social services. In 2014, a decade after the Keating Report, JFJ again urges persons in authority to engage in proactive, meaningful reform and take decisive action to prevent future incidents of abuse,” said Alexis Goffe, member of JFJ’s Child Rights Working Group. “Criminal and administrative investigations must be conducted immediately in order to ensure justice for the victims and protection for children in state care.”