UNICEF calls on Government to improve Child Protection System in response to OCA report
Response to the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s (OCA) report into relationship between the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and Embracing Orphans/Carl Robanske.
KINGSTON, 12 JANUARY 2023 – UNICEF is deeply concerned about the findings of the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s (OCA) report Questionable Relationship between the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and Embracing Orphans/Carl Robanske.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), of which Jamaica is a signatory, clearly outlines the right of every child to be properly cared for, and protected from violence, abuse, and neglect. The CRC further states that children and young people have the right to special protection and help from the State if they are temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment. Unfortunately, in Jamaica, as in many countries around the world, girls and boys in care and justice institutions are at heightened risk of abuse, exploitation, and neglect.
UNICEF believes that strengthening the operations, responsiveness, and accountability of the Child Protection System in Jamaica is critical to safeguard children, particularly those placed in institutions and alternative care settings, from the full spectrum of risks.
A recent UNICEF-commissioned Evaluation of the Child Protection System in Jamaica highlighted serious challenges related to coordination, oversight, monitoring and resource allocation in the sector, especially as it relates to the most vulnerable. There is a critical need for greater government investment in Jamaica’s Child Protection System. The current polices and services urgently need to be strengthened to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children and to safely maintain children in families.
There is the need to invest in and strengthen the capacities of the social service workforce at all levels, so that the rights of the children and the families they serve, can be better protected. It is only through increased child-focused public expenditure and a concerted effort to strengthen the Child Protection System at all levels, that we can reduce the reliance on external funding sources that can potentially threaten the rights and safety of our young people.
Given the nature of the reported abuses, it is essential that the young people impacted receive the requisite support to address their physical, mental, and psychosocial needs as soon as possible.
UNICEF calls on the Government to seriously examine the findings in the OCA report along with the recent Evaluation of the Child Protection System and provide the necessary investment – financial and technical – in the overall Child Protection System and importantly the Child Protection and Family Services Agency to ensure that the rights of all children are protected at all times.
Actions should include interventions to prevent family separation by providing timely access to community-based social services for children and families at risk, strengthening the family-based alternative care system and services including programmes designed to transition children from institutional care to family and community-based care. Additionally, there is the urgent need to enhance the oversight mechanisms such as vetting, reference checking, investigation and disciplinary measures to prevent grave violations of children’s rights.
UNICEF Jamaica reiterates its commitment to work with the Government, civil society and other partners to develop and strengthen laws, policies, services, and practices that protect children from violence, in all settings and in all its forms.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Jamaica, visit www.unicef.org/jamaica.