Social workers association calls for protection of children at Qahal Yahweh churchThursday, November 07, 2019
KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Association of Social Workers (JASW) today called on the ministries of Education and National Security to act promptly to bring all the children being housed in facilities controlled by the Qahal Yahweh Organisation to safety.
JASW President, Eva Forde, said in a statement that the government ministries, through their respective agencies, must use the full powers vested to them to ensure the safety of the children.
“In keeping with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Jamaica's Child Care and Protection Act, our foremost responsibility is to ensure the wellbeing of every child that is within the compound. The Child Care and Protection Act clearly stipulates that where allegations of this nature exist, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency and the Security Forces are fully empowered to remove all children - male and female - from these premises until the investigations are completed,” Forde said.
Forde added that reports have indicated that the children belong to parents who are members of the religious organisation and that underage females are being forced into marriages and childbearing with adult males.
Forde said because the reported circumstances place all the children and adolescents at risk of harm, a thorough investigation is needed to ensure the quality of care for the children is within their best interest.
“It is our view that the behaviour of the adult members of the Qahal Yahweh Organisation is disturbing and signals the definite need for legal investigation and social intervention for the parties involved,” she said.
Forde argued that should the organisation's operations be allowed to continue indefinitely, without action, is a clear contravention of the Rights Charters and the Child Care and Protection Act.
The JASW said while it understands the need for the use of discretion as the investigations proceed, the association firmly supports the prompt removal of all children from the premises and from the influence of the adults associated with the organisation, until such a time as it may be assessed that it is safe and in their best interest to return them to their biological or legal parents/guardians.