Investigate the terms of State care

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The news of a nine-year-old girl being raped while in State care, allegedly by another ward, is tragic and disturbing. We expect not only a full investigation by the authorities to determine how this tragedy occurred, but also the provision of counselling and care for the victim, and appropriate corrective measures for the perpetrator as he is also a minor.

Equally disturbing are the reports that attempts by the mother to regain custody of her children were blocked by the home on the grounds that the mother owed the home $200,000. However this figure came to be, this unacceptable scenario suggests that the children are being kept hostage for ransom. The State's coffers cannot be more important than reuniting parents with their children.

State and society must tread a very sensitive line in caring for children. The Child Care and Protection Act provides the parameters to protect children from abuse, neglect and harm and preserve the family as the preferred environment to raise the children. This law also states that parents have primary responsibility for their children and support services are to be provided to help the family be a safe and nurturing place. The State is not the parent.

This denial of parental rights by the State seems not to be a single occurrence. A mother whose child died in the Walker's Place of Safety fire commented in another news article (April 10, 2018) that she had tried to recover her daughter but was told that she “still needed a kitchen”.

In pursuance of the objectives of the Child Care and Protection Act, couldn't the State have sought from anyone, whether the State, civil society group, church, or private sector organisation to help this mother build a kitchen? As it now stands, for the lack of a kitchen, this mother could not have her child back, her child who is now dead because of a fire at the State's place of safety.

It is a dangerous step to foster the idea that children are property on which the State holds a lien to withhold or return to their parents at their whim and pleasure. If this flawed thinking is allowed to fester, Jamaica could become a new Norway where its child welfare service reportedly fabricates claims and forcibly removes unabused, healthy children from their protective caring biological parents to feed its lucrative foster care system. Consider Amy Jakobsen whose 19-month-old son Tyler was kidnapped by the State because she was still breastfeeding him contrary to that State's preferences.

We hope that the relevant Jamaican authorities will move quickly to uncover and publicise any other instances of this abuse of care. The message must be clear: preserving parental rights and the well-being of children are not mutually exclusive. No State will flourish unless the family also flourishes. It should be a national priority to produce a society in which every home is a safe and happy home where children are loved and cared for by their own mother and father.

Philippa Davies

Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society

jchsadvocate@gmail.com

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