JFJ Press Release: JFJ Concerned with the Lack of Priority given to the Safety and Wellbeing of Chil

JFJ Concerned with the Lack of Priority given to the Safety and Wellbeing of Children in State Care

Friday, January 27, 2012, Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) asks the question, what has to happen for the relevant entities to make the safety and wellbeing of our children under state care a national priority?

Eight years after the Keating Commission recommended that “the Child Development Agency should establish a time-table to carry out inspections of the physical facilities of all homes; establish minimum standards for physical facilities; verify fire extinguishers exist within children’s homes”, the Maxfield Park Children’s home is reported to be in an abysmal state, lacking fire extinguishers and a functioning fire hydrant, among other things.

It is unbelievable, untenable and unacceptable that the grave inadequacies in the safety measures, infrastructure and management at Maxfield Park Children’s Home reported by Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison exist. This continued negligence of the conditions in which children in care are housed, and their safety, is a national disgrace.  It is inexplicable and morally indefensible that eight years since the Keating Report, five years since the fire at the SOS Children’s Village, less than three years since the fire at Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre and a mere two months since the fire at Glenhope Place of Safety, reports of an absence of fire extinguishers and a malfunctioning fire hydrant are still surfacing.

While JFJ is pleased to hear the recently appointed Children’s Advocate’s statement that she takes “a proactive approach because you are talking about the safety of the children,” JFJ wishes to remind the Children’s Advocate that the incidence of gross failure by the state to ensure the protection of children’s rights is not new. There is no shortage of investigations, enquiries, reports or recommendations. What is lacking is action, what is lacking is real and sustainable change.

JFJ strongly urges the relevant authorities to take immediate action to protect the rights of our children and ensure their safety. To that end we must implement ALL the recommendations of the Keating report with immediate effect. It is time for the people who are given responsibilities to be held accountable to ensure that they protect our children from abuse, neglect, harm and threat of harm. It is time for the Office of the Children’s Advocate to exercise the powers vested in it. We cannot allow another Armadale or Glenhope to occur. If we act now, if we act decisively, then we can secure the rights of children under state care to live and develop healthily.