GORDON HARRISON… We have to ensure that every step of the way even in every day routine activities, we really be very vigilant in the kinds of things that we do and the systems of protection that we create around our children
One-year-old girl dies after left unattended in locked car by police dad

BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — A change of routine may well have resulted in the tragic death of a one-year-old girl after she was left for hours unattended in her father's car.

A relative who asked not to be named told the Jamaica Observer that in normal circumstances the child would have been cared for on a daily basis by her maternal grandmother while her parents —both members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) — were at work.

But, on Monday, after the grandmother fell ill, a day-care arrangement was made.

“Normally the grandmother would keep the child, but she had flu symptoms and [an] arrangement was made for [the child] to go to the day care, so the mother took the child to the father, who would in turn take the child to the day care and he forgot,” said the relative.

Police told the Observer that the child succumbed at hospital in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

The St Elizabeth police have since launched a probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of the infant.

Sources yesterday said that the child's father is a detective sergeant assigned to Black River Police Station, while the mother is a sergeant of police in the same St Elizabeth Division.

When contacted, head of the police's Corporate Communications Unit Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay confirmed the incident.

A team from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency visited St Elizabeth yesterday as part of the investigation.

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison expressed concern about what is happening to the nation's children in light of Wednesday's painful news.

“Usually, when you hear anything like this there are lots of questions that come to mind. What was the nature of the stop? Why did the father think it [was] appropriate to leave the child unattended in the car? And, of course a host of other questions as to what are the next steps?” she asked during an interview with the Observer Wednesday.

She is urging parents and guardians to be vigilant when caring for children.“We have a child that has died, which again raises the question as to just each and every person who has charge of a child being very conscious that when we least expect, it is when the worst happens and so we can't take things for granted,” she said.

“We have to ensure that every step of the way, even in everyday routine activities, we really be very vigilant in the kinds of things that we do and the systems of protection that we create around our children. Of course, I am saddened that one so young has died,” she added.

She said the law of nature is that children are born and they need guidance.

“They need someone to take care of them and they need to be reminded consistently about things that may put them in harm's way,” she said.

She said January has been “far too bloody” in relation to children.

“I think that we need to just pause, all of us, whether we are biological parents or not. Whether we are godparents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers or in fact not even a relative, but just to recognise that our responsibility as well-thinking adults who are positive, who have good sense and who want well for our families and our nation. We must own our role in the active protection of our children that includes a word of correction if a child is doing something that doesn't seem right,” she said.

“A word of guidance to inform children of how to embark on a particular phase of life or activity that they are going to be exposed to and, of course, if we are not in direct contact with children playing our part in speaking up by saying to the authorities, 'I don't know the people. I'm not in a position to speak to them, but something doesn't look so right down here.' We need as a system the eyes and ears of every Jamaican in every community, every parish, if we are to get ahead of the curve in actively protecting our children,” she added.

BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

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