Hear The Children’s Cry Betty Ann Blaine calls for Ministry of Family Affairs to stem violence in Jamaica
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Founder of Hear The Children’s Cry, Betty Ann Blaine, says she believes establishing a Ministry of Family Affairs would go a far way in addressing the issue of violence in the country.
This comes after Prime Minister Andrew Holness revealed that his administration is looking into establishing a new government ministry dedicated to combating violence in Jamaica.
“The state of the family in our society is the root of the problem of our current untenable levels of crime and violence,” Blaine said in a statement on Sunday.
“In fact, for the longest time, Hear The Children’s Cry has been calling for the urgently needed establishment of a Ministry of Family Affairs. As so many of us who work in the area of child welfare continue to tell Mr Holness, time and time again, violence does not drop out of the sky, it is a developmental process, related to the fact that the majority of our children in Jamaica are fed on a diet of violence, in woefully inadequate, and often cruel circumstances. Violence prevention can only work if it starts with the family,” she added.
Stating that Jamaica is a nation which “pays its top government executives what they consider to be an adequate and reasonable wage,” Blaine went on to say that there needs to be a balance in the budget which ensures the country’s most vulnerable, its children, enjoy a social and economic standard of living geared to groom well balanced, law-abiding, productive citizens.
“Unfortunately, the opposite is currently true. One of our most pressing challenges is the high level of child poverty in Jamaica. Including those affected by the COVID 19 pandemic and its many negative consequences, we fear that nearly half of our children now live below the poverty line. Our well-paid government leaders need to allocate significantly more resources to child care and protection,” she said.
“Issues such as domestic violence, migration of parents, inappropriate and often violent disciplinary measures and disgracefully underserved inner-city and deep rural communities, all need to be corrected, in a well-coordinated initiative that is afforded the highest priority,” Blaine continued.
The statement further stated that, “Hear The Children’s Cry would like to stress that these measures do NOT require any new buildings or other concrete structures. What they require is the understanding and commitment of our prime minister and other national leaders and dedicated stakeholders across the nation, including the many caring but underpaid and understaffed government child care teams.”
Blaine explained that as the organisation has been advocating specifically for the past seven years, giving the desperately needed transfusion of resources, guidance and hands-on supervision to the Jamaican family at every level, would include emergency measures such as a nationwide survey of living conditions of the country’s close to one million children, establishing a consensus among stakeholders on critical gaps in areas of child protection, prioritising achievable targets for urgent attention and action, including and especially, adequately increased child welfare and family support programmes, committing and maintaining the necessary resources for the above, launching a high priority, national parenting education programme, and researching and funding a selection of the many excellent projects piloted by non-government organisation but never continued because of lack of support.
She pointed out that Hear The Children’s Cry … piloted a very successful Prevent a Dropout Project in 2006-7 at one secondary school.
“It targeted 60 grade 8 and 9 students deemed highly likely to drop out of school, given their home life and school performance. Students were given remedial education, career guidance, life-skills training, individual mentoring, and with their families, parenting and family life education. Some required counselling, some could not read and received remedial lessons. Students were also given help with bus fares and food,” she shared.
According to Blaine, the results were considered a phenomenal success by the school.
“Against all odds, 29 of the first year’s group of 30, and all 30 of the second year’s group graduated. While the RBTT Bank sponsored the pilot project, no support could be found for instituting this simple but proven, life-saving initiative on a permanent or large scale basis. And this sad waste is not unusual – many needed solutions have already been designed and successfully piloted. They should be considered before we continue to reinvent the wheel,” Blaine said, adding that it should be noted that the Prevent A Dropout Project was really a violence prevention solution.
Nevertheless, she said, “Hear The Children’s Cry is glad to hear that the Prime Minister is anxious to reduce violence in the Jamaican society. We only hope he will listen to those practitioners who have been working with children and families for a long time. We urge him to pay particular attention to their achievements and best practices.”