New childcare Act in 18 months, says MorganThursday, October 14, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
Minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Robert Morgan, has promised that Jamaica will have a new Child Care and Protection Act within the next 18 months.
Making his contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Morgan, who has responsibility for child care and protection, said the ministry is finally in a position to present a document to the attorney general that will eventually go to Cabinet for approval.
“It has taken a long time for us to reach the point where we can say, we are ready for the amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act,” said Morgan.
“I am very happy that this ministry, under the leadership of Minister Fayval Williams, with myself being seconded with the responsibility, is finally able to present a document to the attorney general that will go to Cabinet for approval.
“As a father and a Member of Parliament, I am proud to know that within the next 12 to 18 months we will have a new Child Care and Protection Act which will, for the first time, enumerate the rights of all children in Jamaica and ban corporal punishment, among other things. This has been a long time coming and I am happy to report today that we can confirm that there is hope for children,'' added Morgan.
He also updated the House on the developments at the Maxfield Park Children's Home in St Andrew, where ground was broken in July for the construction of a Child Therapeutic Centre, at a cost of more than $117 million.
Morgan pointed out that construction of the centre is being undertaken through funding of $30 million, which was provided by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), and just over $87 million by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF)-implemented Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF9), which is financed by the Caribbean Development Bank.
“This undertaking will entail the construction of four consultation rooms, four treatment rooms, one screening area, one waiting area, one reception area, two bathroom facilities, one officer lounge, driveway/parking area, an administrative area, four counselling rooms, three behavioural therapy rooms, three physical therapy rooms, three courtyards and fencing,” noted Morgan.
He added that construction of the therapeutic centre is expected to be completed within six months, and is part of a bigger plan to transform the home into a centre of excellence for child care in Jamaica.
The state minister said that the plan is to ask the Cabinet to approve the winding-up of the Maxfield Park Children's Home as a company limited by guarantee and for the facility to be reverted to a fully functional Government child care facility under the management of the CPFSA.
The new entity is to be governed by an advisory board, with a long-term plan to restructure and redevelop the home into a centre of excellence for childcare.
Morgan said that when he joined ministry, it was recognised that there are several pieces of legislation that had not been updated in decades.
These include the Adoption Act, which was passed in the 1950s, and has not undergone any significant amendments since.
According to Morgan, the draft policy for a new Adoption Act is ready for submission to the Attorney General's Chambers.
“We do not want to have our children confined to children's homes when there are families out there willing to adopt them, but the adoption process in Jamaica is too long, too cumbersome, lacks transparency, and therefore discourages prospective adoptive parents. This is a change that we are committed to making,” declared Morgan.
“The objective is for everyone in the child care ecosystem is to understand that the children are our priority, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that the systems are in place to protect them and ensure their safety. We are ensuring that robust systems are in place to adequately care for, and protect all children in State care,” he added.