CHIEF Executive Officer of the Child Development Agency (CDA) Carla Francis-Edie believes the role of the body, which has come under heavy criticisms in recent times, is largely misunderstood.
"Over the last several months, much has been said in the media about the work of the organisation and the general issues affecting the nation's children. In some instances we have felt that there is not clear understanding of the role of the organisation or the context within which the CDA operates," Francis-Edie told the Jamaica Observer at its weekly Monday Exchange forum of the newspaper at its Beechwood Avenue headquarters.
The CDA head said, while it could not rebuff constructive criticisms, the CDA was operating in a challenging environment and is affected by multiple problems, most of which are not of its own making.
"As a Government agency, we respect the right of the media and the public to hold us accountable for the work that we are doing; we have absolutely no issue with that. But we also believe that the conversation needs to be expanded to take into consideration the complexities of the problems we face as a society, and the roles and responsibility of various players in restoring the fabric of our community, and emphasis, we believe very strongly, has to be placed on parenting," Francis-Edie pointed out.
"The environment in which the CDA operates is one in which we face major challenges, and one of the challenges is a lack of parenting. This is reflected in the report of the Office of the Children's Registry, where neglect is the highest incidence of abuse against children and physical abuse as well," she told the Observer.
In December, lobby group Help JA Children (HJC) called for Francis-Edie's resignation. At the time, chairman of HJC's Parenting and Policy Committee, Ricardo Brooks, complained that the CDA had been deafeningly silent with regards to children in conflict with the law.
He also complained that the organisation was yet to respond to a joint request from HJC and lobby group Jamaicans For Justice for the agency to clarify its role in the administration of youth justice.
Established in 2004 out of a merger of the Child Support Unit, the Child Services Division, and the Adoption Division, the CDA offers several child protection services such as case management and planning for the children's court; the intake of children in need of care and protection; foster care and adoption; the investigation of reports referred by the Children's Registry; and counselling.
It caters for children and their parents, particularly children who have been neglected, abused or abandoned and provides care and protection through advocacy, education, rehabilitation. and family support.