DIRECTOR of Children and Family Programmes at the Child Development Agency (CDA) Audrey Budhi says the entity is now reviewing the 2004 Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) to address some of the more "heinous" realities facing children since the provision was introduced.
"We are reviewing the Child Care and Protection Act because we saw new emerging issues that we would not have seen when we were drafting the Act in 2004, so a number of issues have to be looked at, and definitely that should be addressed," Budhi told Jamaica Observer on Monday.
She said the adjustments will ensure that the long arm of the law reaches "everybody in society who infringe, hurt, maltreat, and neglect children" with stiffer penalties.
Addressing the issue, CDA's Chief Executive Officer Carla Francis-Edie expressed disgust at the exploitation of innocent children by adults.
"When you look at a mother who sends her child down the road to have sex with a man because he provides grocery, and that child got pregnant and her body was not mature enough to carry that baby, they had to take the baby from her. And these are the kinds of situations that are facing children, and we have to take them. And when anything happens these are the same parents who come and say the state is wicked and try to sue," Francis-Edie said.
Meanwhile, the agency's Public Relations and Communications Manager Prudence Barnes said the entity also wants to engage communities on the welfare of children.
"We also want to call on communities, some of the communities are complicit, they know the abuse is happening but they turn a blind eye," she said.
The present Act, among other things, holds that parents have the main responsibility for the care and protection of children. Parental duties apply to both mother and father, whether or not they live with the child; step-parents, foster parents or adoptive parents, and guardians or other persons charged with the raising of the child.
Child neglect can result in maximum sentences of three years. Other types of abuse will attract higher sentences based on the level of harm done to the child. Failing to report if you know or suspect that a child is abused or is in need of care and protection can result in a sentence of six months in prison or a fine of $500,000. The maximum sentence for incest (having sex with a daughter, granddaughter or similar relative) has been increased to 16 years' imprisonment). Hiring a child to work in a nightclub attracts a penalty of $1 million and the risk of having the club closed down by the authorities.
The CCPA received final approval by Jamaica's Parliament on March 11, 2004 and was signed into law by the governor general on March 25, 2004.