Parents, community members urged to protect nation's children

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

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CHILDREN'S Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has urged heightened vigilance by parents and community members in protecting the nation's children from harm, in light of recent attacks and mishaps involving several youngsters.

Speaking at the Office of the Children's Advocate's (OCA) recent press briefing at the agency's offices in downtown Kingston, Gordon Harrison said the mishaps against children have not “gone unnoticed” by the entity.

She contended, however, that while the OCA's officers are doing their part to provide support, communities can do more.

“We use these incidents to urge that immediate and important steps be taken to protect our children. It is not just parents and guardians who must assist with protecting children — we need all communities and school families,” the children's advocate emphasised.

Gordon Harrison noted that the school community can play a vital role in safeguarding children, as they know what is usual and unusual about youngsters who they interact with daily, while stressing that “everybody needs to get involved”.

She said data collated by the OCA show that most attacks on children are committed by persons known to them and with whom, in some cases, they have close relations.

“We need to be looking at the systems of protection and supervision that we create for our children as parents. And we need to, as community members, speak out when we see something that looks wrong. If we see children walking to and from school alone, we need to ensure that they are walking in groups,” she said.

A the same time, Gordon Harrison highlighted children's vulnerability when travelling alone on public transportation to school, and proposed the creation of incentives for taxi and bus operators to provide special arrangements for the youngsters.

She said, too, that retired and unemployed persons could give consideration to becoming safety wardens for children who have to walk the streets, often unaccompanied, particularly in their communities.

Meanwhile, she said the OCA, as part of its mandate, has been providing counselling and legal representation to families islandwide to ensure the rights and welfare of children are preserved.

Under the Child Care and Protection Act 2004, the OCA is authorised to take all reasonable steps to protect and enforce the rights of children in Jamaica.

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