New education state minister assigned child protection sector
Newly appointed minister of state in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Marsha Smith (right), in conversation with acting permanent secretary in the ministry, Maureen Dwyer, on arrival at the ministry’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston last Thursday. (Photo: JIS)

Newly-appointed state minister in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Marsha Smith, has been assigned to take charge of the child protection sector.

"As you know, her background is a lawyer [and] we have a lot of different pieces of legislation that we really need to get passed in Parliament, such as the [amended] Child Protection Act," portfolio Minister Fayval Williams told the Jamaica Observer on the sideline of an Anada Alert Youth Forum in New Kingston last Thursday.

"She brings her legal background; and that is very needed to help to guide the process there, and I am looking forward to working with her. I know she is coming from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, where she would have been involved in labour relations issues there as well; she brings that as a skill that we look forward to," Williams added.

The education ministry has oversight responsibility for the island's leading protection agency for children, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which operates eight childcare units and more than 40 private homes.

It also assists parents and caregivers of children through different training workshops.

In bringing greetings to the forum, Williams expressed profound sadness at the abuse children especially by close relatives.

"Adults are not always honest; they are not always persons you can trust, unfortunately. And so, as young people, you have to have that discerning measure about you as to who you can trust [and] who you cannot trust. This is something that you have to develop 'cause even as adults, we have to have that in us as well.

"It is a sad reality that we have had to establish to fully give credence to the fact that far too many children go missing annually. Despite your parents or caregivers, and the State's best efforts at child protection, the issue of continued abuse and neglect of children is painful to acknowledge…What is very very sad is that the abuse comes from the adults in the home; the adults who are known to the children, who are related to the children. They are the ones abusing the children," said Williams.

She told the forum that she wants all children in Jamaica to feel safe and secure and have a sense of belonging.

"We obviously want to get to a point in our society where all our children are loved and protected. Yes, we agree that there are moments when a child would need to be disciplined — obviously we are not in favour of corporal punishment — but there are other forms of discipline for our children," added Williams.

BY ONEIL MADDEN Observer writer

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