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Victims of violence being re-traumatised in State care

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Child Development Agency (CDA) is concerned that under the current system of State care and protection, some children who are the victims of violence are being placed in situations where they are at risk of being re-traumatised.

The CDA, in its submission yesterday of more than 30 recommendations for changes to the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) before the joint select committee of Parliament, and now reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and other legislation focusing on violence against women, children, and the elderly, called for provisions to protect these children.

CDA consultant on the review of the CCPA, Tanya Chambers, said: “We feel that the law, as it is currently written, does not reflect the degree of nuances that is required to deal with children impacted by violence. We need more detailed regulations to deal with places of safety.

“Currently, we can have situations where a child who is rescued from violence is housed in a facility with children who themselves are accused of perpetrating violence, so we feel that the system as it currently exists can give rise to bullying and other re-traumatising of a child who is removed from a violent situation,” Chambers said.

The consultant said there is also not enough intervention for children who have begun to display violent traits, before they become violent adults.

Head of the CDA Rosalee Gage Grey further told the committee that: “We don't have facilities that we can adequately do the separation of children. Children are separated now based on whether they have committed offences, through the department of correctional services and those who are in need of care and protection.”

She explained that the latter category covers such a wide spectrum that, for example, because judges are no longer giving correctional orders for those who were previously termed “uncontrollable”, these children now fall under the CDA as needing care and protection.

“We are having particular challenges with those, and we have now to be looking at what mechanisms are we going to put in place to treat with that category of children, and we are seeing a vast number of children who are displaying this behaviour,” she said, noting that the CDA is trying to ensure that it can adequately deal with these children.

Gage-Grey said the agency has in place a monitoring mechanism whereby officers visit places of safety, unannounced, to ensure that standards of care are being adhered to, and that there are also staff within these facilities. The CDA is responsible for children who are kept in places of safety to await court proceedings.

The committee is reviewing the Child Care and Protection Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Offences Against the Person Act. The original committee, which was chaired by former Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding, held its last meeting in November, 2014. In December, 2016 a new committee was appointed to resume the deliberations,but postponed its meetings in January in light of Parliament's budget-related activities.