Church prepares for implementation of Child Protection PolicyWednesday, May 02, 2018
THE Seventh-day Adventist Church says given the current alarming rate of sexual and other types of abuse of children in Jamaica, it is putting measures in place as it relates to their protection of children through its department of children and adolescents.
A recent release from the church said with that in mind, a seminar titled 'The Establishment of a Child Protection Policy (CPP)' was held at the one of the church's regional headquarters, in Kingston on April 24, 2018, where 52 administrators, pastors, teachers, and guidance counsellors were trained.
“Our main objective of the training is for us to be more active and proactive as it relates to the protection of our children. For far too long we have not been good at implementing the policies of our church and the laws of the country,” Dr Lorraine Vernal, who is the Family, Women and Children and Adolescent Ministries director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is quoted as saying in the release.
According to the church, figures from the Office of the Children's Registry show an upward trend in the number of cases reported for children, mainly female, who were sexually abused for the period 2007- 2015. The church said the figures moved from 121 in 2007 to 3,806 in 2015.
The seminar, which was conducted by children's advocate Betty-Ann Blaine and International Development Consultant Georgia Lewis-Scott, featured topics such as: Jamaica's Child Care and Protection Act; what you should know about child sexual abuse; and creating your church's child protection policy, among others.
“We expect that the participants will go back to their spheres of influence, look at what exists... while we work on the child protection policy that we are doing to share what was learnt at the seminar,” Vernal said. “We [are] intentional about measures that exist to protect our children and adolescents such as the Child Care and Protection Act and the Adventist Risk Management Child Protection Plan.”
In the meantime, Blaine explained that it is necessary for not only Adventists, but other religious groups, to implement a CPP since “the church is an easy target for sexual predators because they believe church people are na´ve. They know that church members are still saying it can't happen in our churches and some are resistant to change and don't believe churches should do background checks, or even develop a CPP”.
According to Vernal, “A committee has already been established to put together a child protection policy manual, which we hope will be completed by year-end and used in our churches, schools and institutions. A critical element of the policy is the screening of volunteers and workers who are responsible for care of our children.”
Vernal, a guidance counsellor at St George's College, said the seminar was an eye-opener.
“I now realise that we have a huge mandate to protect children. There is so much that everyone must do, including parent, teachers, educators, and even the child that is being abused. Our charge is to go out and do more for the protection of our children,” she said.
According to the release, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica has more than 307,000 members worshipping in 738 churches and congregations. The church also oversees 29 primary and secondary schools, a university and a hospital, the release said.
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