As the country grapples with an array of problems affecting children, a group of three young lawyers has come forward to serve as legal watchdogs, and to fill an important gap in providing legislative oversight and practical legal advocacy in support of Jamaica's children and their families.
Founder of lobby group Hear The Children’s Cry (HTCC), Betty Ann Blaine said the new entity called Child Watch Legal, an affiliate arm of HTCC, will undertake the following:
· Provide child legislative oversight, e.g. by interacting with relevant legislation whenever there is enactment or revision of child protection and welfare legislation, including parliamentary representation.
· Examine international treaties/conventions, e.g. U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
· Engage in public education including Family Court procedures and children in conflict with the law, etc.
· Participate in legal advocacy on current and emerging matters relating to children.
· Interacting with other attorneys in ongoing legal networking.
All three attorneys describe how excited and committed they are to undertake this new endeavor on behalf of the nation’s children.
“Having a passion for children’s emotional, physical and financial wellbeing, I believe it is my duty to seize the opportunity to provide legal insight, address the concerns of the vulnerable, and to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Priscilla Duhaney, attorney-at-law, sole practitioner, and lecturer in paralegal studies at Excelsior Community College.
“I am doing this out of a long held vision for the protection and holistic development of Jamaica’s youth,” she added.
Also on board is Deseree Whittle, attorney and founder/director of Yutes On d’Rock Foundation, a youth development organisation operating in Rockfort and its environs in East Kingston for the past 12 years.
She explained that “Having been actively involved in youth development for a number of years, my whole purpose for studying law was to position myself to better help the children. I am therefore very excited about this opportunity to serve the children of Jamaica in this way”.
Therese Saunders, whose parents are themselves lawyers, embraces the opportunity to serve. A devout Roman Catholic, Saunders has a special ear for the suffering of children.
“I feel especially concerned and grieved for those whose sufferings are brought about by the unjust conduct of other persons and institutions. I feel compelled to respond to the children’s plight and commit wholeheartedly to the aims and objectives of Child Watch Legal,” she said.
Blaine is heralding this important new development as a critical area of support for the broad-based advocacy the organisation has pursued for the last 20 years.
“We are absolutely delighted with the establishment of Child Legal Watch as part of Hear The Children’s Cry,” Blaine said, noting that “It is increasingly important to know that there is a team of lawyers that can assist the organisation, and by extension the children and families we serve, with this type of legislative monitoring and oversight".
“Importantly, through Child Watch Legal’s public education component, parents and guardians will benefit from information regarding Court proceedings and issues relating to children who may come in conflict with the law,” Blaine added.
She said this type of help is invaluable.