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Child abuse shocker - 8,030 cases reported between Jan & Aug

OCA receives call every 30 minutes

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2013    

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MORE than 8,000 cases of child abuse were reported between January and August this year, according to the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) which also revealed that it is contacted every 30 minutes with an allegation of ill-treatment.

Sharian Hanson, senior legal policy officer at the OCA, said that the 8,030 cases of abuse ranged from physical, to sexual, to emotional, with neglect and missing children being high on the list.

Hanson noted that 1,730 children have gone missing during the same period, with 10 of the missing children found dead. These statistics, she explained, were from the Office of the Children's Registry.

"It would appear that being a child in these times is indeed a disadvantage," Hanson told more the than 500 parents attending the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) Annual Conference and Expo 2013, held at Jamaica College in Kingston on Saturday.

"Should childhood not be the complete opposite?" she asked. "Should this not be a time of utter simplicity, freedom from adult responsibilities and assured protection from the ills of our society?"

Addressing the theme, 'Parents, care and protect your children, get involved', Hanson said research has shown that the more involved parents are in a child's upbringing, the more likely children are to become successful in life.

"The role of the family is essential to the development of children," the attorney-at-law said. "In fact, society relies on the family to nurture, care for, and protect the child. A teacher can assist in guiding and reinforcing positive attitudes within a child, but cannot be the sole source."

Hanson pointed out that parental responsibility is dealt with in the Child Care and Protection Act, which states that where parents fail to carry out their duties to the child there are serious penalties.

Parental duties involve the provision of care for the child to include adequate food, clothing, lodging and health care appropriate for the child's age and need; duty to secure education for the child from age four to 16, and where it cannot be afforded application made to the State for financial assistance; and the duty to ensure that offences are not committed against children.

"If there is reasonable cause to suspect that an offence has been or is being committed, the family members are to act in the best interest of the child and immediately report it to the relevant authorities," Hanson said.

These authorities include the police, the Family/Children's court, the Child Development Agency, Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) or the OCA.

The maximum penalty for failing to report where it is suspected that a child is being or is likely to be abandoned, neglected, physically or sexually ill-treated, or is otherwise in need of care and protection, is a $500,000 fine, or six months' imprisonment, or both.

President of the NPTAJ, Everton Hannam, said the national conference was a call to action that should see parents unite, promote and reinforce good family values, decency, principle and proper parenting in the homes

and within communities islandwide.

"This year we seek to focus on our children, hence our theme. We have designed this theme through the reports of abuses being experienced by our children, such as mental, physical, emotional, economical, and sexual," he said.

Presenters at the conference included the Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, representatives from National Parenting Support Commission, OCR, National Family Planning Board, and the National Council on Education.

Parents from PTAs across Jamaica were represented at the conference and were encouraged to take back the information to other parents who were not in attendance.

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