JFJ Responds on Issue of Children’s Support Task Force
Thursday, July 18, 2013, Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans For Justice(JFJ) notes that Minister Lisa Hanna had raised the issue of our withdrawal from the Child Support Taskforce of Volunteers. The Minister stated in her Press Conference on July 17, 2013 that:
“Jamaicans for Justice, which was invited by the Government to participate constructively within a broad-based Children Support Taskforce of Volunteers, has opted not to help children by participating in real action to assist them, but has chosen instead, to remain in an oppositional mode focused only on criticizing and tearing down the efforts of everybody else, instead of joining hands to build up and truly lift up Jamaica’s children.”
Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) wishes to set the record straight on what we consider the Minister’s disingenuous characterization of us and our work. JFJ accepted the invitation to serve on the Children Support Task Force despite our reservations, stated in a letter to the Minister at the outset, that the “need for a strong focus on implementation of recommendations previously made” was missing from the proposed terms of reference of the committee. Indeed, we suggested additional terms of reference for the committee to the Minister in order to address issues which we saw as “having similar or greater urgency, particularly the situation facing children in State care especially those who are in the custody of the Correctional services on Correctional or Fit Person orders and most particularly those being housed in adult facilities.”
Despite these reservations, members of JFJ attended the first two committee meetings, missed the third and then took the decision to withdraw based on our concerns that the committee was not addressing the urgent matters that needed to be addressed. This withdrawal was communicated to the Minister by letter dated May 24, 2013. At the time of our withdrawal we assured Minister Hanna that if she was“minded to establish a committee that will oversee and drive implementation rather than draft further reports” we would be happy to provide assistance.
Enclosed are both letters for ease of reference.
January 22, 2013
Dear Minister Hanna
Thank you very much for your invitation to serve as a member of the proposed Children Support Taskforce to be chaired by the Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis. I would believe that this invitation is not to me in my personal capacity but to myself as Executive Director of Jamaicans For Justice and so I have taken the liberty of sharing it with the Board of Directors and asking for their thoughts on serving on this task force.
Jamaicans For Justice is agreed that the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Taskforce speak to important issues to beaddressed, among other things to,
- assist in building public awareness, knowledge and intentionality of issues pertinent to the care, protection and development of children in Jamaica
- through public education campaigns, mobilise positive public action in areas such as improved parenting, family planning, wholesome family relations, child preventive and rehabilitative wellness; and generaly to assist in creating a national commitment for helping all in the society become better nurturers of our children; as well as to
- provide support to the Ministry and its agencies by way of actions and approaches to fashioning and implementing possible solutions to issues affecting children
JFJ is however concerned about anumber of other issues which we see as having similar or greater urgency, particularlythe situation facing children in State care especially those who are in the custody of the Correctionalservices on Correctional or Fit Person orders and most particularly those beinghoused in adult facilities. We are alsoseized of the need for a strong focus on implementation of recommendationspreviously made to fix some of the issues raised in the terms of reference andothers which have sought to address the situation of children in statecare. We would therefore ask if
1. The Terms of Reference couldexplicitly include:
· to devise immediate solutions toenable the removal of all children being kept in adult facilities
· to ensure age-appropriate and rehabilitative physical facilities and programmatic design for such children
· Develop a plan for rationalising and maximising the use of existing facilities for children in State care and in conflict with the Law;
· Ensure facilities and programmes for children in State care/in conflict with the Law are consistent with United Nations Conventions & Agreements and Jamaican Law and policy.
· Ensure appropriate in-service training of staff of relevant State institutions, building their capacity to deliver good/best practice services to children in State care/conflict with the Law
· Provide timely monitoring and reporting on the Ministry’s and relevant agencies’ implementation of all relevant Laws, recommendations, policies contained in previous reports inter alia those in the Keating, Armadale and Task Force on New Regime for Juvenile reports;
JFJ would also wish to have some clarity on the budget and other resources which would be available to support the work of the task force as well as the proposed time frame for its work.
The Board of Directors of JFJ has asked me to advise Minister that, since I am unable to personally accept the invitation to serve,we would be pleased to nominate Mrs Lisa Lakhan-Chen to represent JFJ with an alternate representative being Mr. Alexis Goffe.
JFJ looks forward to hearing more from your office on this matter and to making its input in a Task Force designed to be effective.
JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE
Dr. J. Carolyn Gomes
May 24, 2013
The Hon. Lisa Hanna
Ministry of Youth and Culture
4-6 Trafalgar Road
Re: Notification of Withdrawalfrom the Children’s Support Task Force
Dear Minister Hanna,
We are writing this letter to serve as notification of Jamaicans for Justice’s cessation of affiliation with the Children’s Support Task force and concurrent withdrawal from participation in future meetings and activities. With all due respect to the members involved, our organization feels that at this time, the methods and approaches employed thus far are insufficient to properly address the problem at hand.
Given the urgency of the issues, Jamaicans for Justice wishes to express its disappointment at the Task Force’s failure to enact certain procedures and steps, as we believe them to be important in developing a cohesive and effective strategy:
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Children’s Support Task force has not yet formally amended its Terms of Reference, nor has it involved the suggestions of relevant civil society organizations to improve this charter. Well-defined and actionable Terms of Reference represent a crucial prerequisite to effective and focused action, and as such, we believe that the continued delay in modifying them is significantly hampering the effectiveness of the group’s activities.
We also wish to express our concern at certain aspects of the sub-committee structures. Of particular concern is the placement of the CDA executive at the head of the Facilities team. Jamaicans for Justice believes that this represents a conflict of interest, and is indicative of the lack of clarity about the functioning of the Task Force and what its aims are.
ISSUE OF IMPLEMENTATION
At this juncture, the Task Force has displayed relatively little interest in pursuing an action-oriented strategy. Jamaicans for Justice is a proponent of placing equal emphasis on legislation and implementation, and believes that the group is situated in a context in which this latter component should be the main goal. As has been previously stated,the issues to be addressed by this group are of a time-sensitive nature, and warrant a sense of urgency on the part of the Task Force.
In the absence of clear Terms of Reference, and in light of the ad hoc approach to the agenda and the matters being discussed, it seems that there is no clear mandate for the committee. At this point, we do not feel that these particular efforts will go towards improving the situation of children in need of care and protection and other wards of the state. In future, if Minister Hanna is minded to establish a committee that will oversee and drive implementation rather than draft further reports, Jamaicans for Justice will be happy to provide its assistance.
JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE
Dr. Carolyn Gomes,
Cc:Reverend Marjorie Lewis, Chairperson, Children’s Support Task Force