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Police probing child-sale allegations

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 14, 2014    

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HEAD of the police's National Intelligence Bureau, Assistant Commissioner Kevin Blake, says the constabulary is duty bound to investigate reports of children being 'sold' to prospective 'adoptive parents' who are attempting to duck the formal process for varying reasons.

This as the Child Adoption Board last December expressed fear that "current inefficiencies in the system may be promoting the persistence of private arrangements" where parents illegally 'give away' their children for the prospect of a better life.

"We heard of it; we haven't reached far in terms of confirming the existence of the practice, but something of that nature, once it comes to our attention, we are obligated to look into it," ACP Blake told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.

According to a report presented jointly by the board and the Child Development Agency, 21 such cases were reported to the board between January and August 2013. The entities said that private adoptions, which are illegal in Jamaica, were the bane of their existence.

The agreement to "give away" the child, the report states, may have been made when the woman was still pregnant and may have been facilitated by a third person who knew both parties and made a match between them. Sometimes nurses in hospitals are the matchmakers or sometimes a "friend-of-a-friend", the report said.

However, the childcare officials were insistent that "any form of legal guardianship of a child by anyone other than the child's biological parent must be mediated by the CDA and/or the Court, whether it is legal guardianship, foster care or adoption (in which case the CDA acts as the Agent for the Adoption Board)". At the same time concerns were that private arrangements open the door to the possibility of child trafficking and child abuse.

On Wednesday ACP Blake said that the police had no leads in that regard.

"At this point, we have nothing to substantiate that allegation. Obviously we want to unearth the truth, whether or not something like that occurs, and if it does we certainly have to do something about it, that's human trafficking. There is a lot that can be done in the event something like this is happening and that is where partners like Interpol and other regional partners come in, because it does not necessarily have to be our shores alone," he noted.

"It's difficult to tell you the steps that we will take, but human trafficking, I must say, is something we take very very seriously," he said, explaining that such responsibility lies with the Organised Crime Investigative Division.

He said the recent upgrading of Jamaica's status under the Human Trafficking Index was "particularly because of the work the division has put in it".

Last December CDA Director Rosalee Gage-Grey told the Observer that while there is the fear the monies might have been paid to the individuals who arrange for the parents and potential adopters to meet in some of these cases, there was no solid proof.

"It has been alleged, we have no proof, I don't think we have any case where we have proof that monies have actually passed but it has been alleged," Gage-Grey said.

"Based on how these arrangements go, that (monies being paid) would not necessarily come to us because of the interest of the parties because that would have been done outside of what we do. Because the adopter wants the child they would not necessarily tell us because that would jeopardise them getting that child so they are not going to come forward and say 'OK I paid $100,000'," she pointed out.

She explained to them that the "21 cases referenced were where there were arrangements between parties who were not a relative of the biological parents and those arrangements based on the circumstances presented to the Board could be alleged to have been arranged as per the definition in the Act".

"With adoptions in Jamaica there is no charge to it, so if monies should pass that would be illegal, no monies at all should pass," Gage Grey said then.

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