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In a jam-packed ceremony on Thursday, July 18, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), launched our “Child Protection Laws” Pocketguide for Educators and Childcare Professionals”. The guide was developed over the past year by JFJ in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, with support from the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) – a Canadian government-funded programme implemented by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Jamaica.

The situation of Jamaica’s children – a cause for concern

The situation of children in Jamaica has long been a concern of JFJ. A review of existing research in the area, and our own research, uncovered alarming information about the nation’s children. According to the UNICEF Situational Analysis of Children in Jamaica published in 2018, “Approximately 80% of Jamaican children experience some form of psychological or physical violence administered as discipline, 64.9% of students are bullied at school, and as many as 79% of Jamaican children witness violence in their community or at home”. 

Additionally, we found that the knowledge and attitudes of duty bearers, such as educators and law enforcement officers, were roughly the same as those of the general public. For example, on the eve of deployment, the majority (62.1%) of police recruits had not heard of the Child Justice Guidelines, and over 1 third (35.8%) of police recruits had not heard of the police’s own Child Interaction Policy. Also, in another survey, we found that 70% of educational and institutional workers who did not report child abuse said they lacked confidence in the justice system.

Legal literacy needed to improve the situation of children

For Executive Director of JFJ, Rodje Malcolm, the knowledge and attitude of duty bearers are a cause for concern, and calls into question the quality of childcare services and the efficacy of child protection systems.  According to Malcolm, “there is a need for widescale and in-depth capacity-building, to build knowledge and transform attitudes among those with special responsibility for the care and protection of children, and the Child Protection Laws pocket Guide seeks to address this”.

The development of the pocket guide is a part of a larger effort by JFJ to improve the legal literacy of duty bearers. At the beginning of the year, the organization embarked on an extensive training programme, and to date, has trained more than 900 duty bearers, including police recruits at the National Police College, teachers at the early childhood to tertiary levels, workers in childcare facilities, and Justices of the Peace. 

This aim of the pocket guide is to sensitize duty bearers about key child rights under Jamaican law, explain forms of child abuse that are captured under Jamaican law — including simple, non-legalistic definitions of different criminal offences applicable to children — and break down the legal processes that impact child protection so that educators can be fully aware of what the law says, how the law can help and how the law can be used to respond to child maltreatment. 

After reading this guide, users should be better able to identify cases of child maltreatment, understand their full legal responsibility under various Jamaican laws, successfully report child abuse and identify the various steps and channels through which cases can be resolved.

You can download the Child Protection Laws Pocketguide here