OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:
In an effort to increase the level of awareness among parents and guardians about the mechanisms in place to ensure the safety andPROTECTION of children, the South EastREGION of the Child Development Agency (CDA) held its first in a series of town hall meetings last Thursday at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Old Harbour.
The town hall meeting, according to the CDA officer for the South East region, Robert Williams, was convened against the background of the increase in violence against children.
“You know there are parents who don’t want their children around, saying the Government must care for them, so these children end up in children’s homes,” he stated.
“Our responsibility is to love, cherish and provide for our children, not just to say I love you, but demonstrate the love in practical ways,” he said, adding that parents cannot allow their children to go in search of love outside of the home.
“Children must know that their parents love them, tell them you love them when nobody else does, I do,” the child development officer implored.
In his presentation, Greig Smith, registrar of the Office of the Children’sREGISTRY(OCR), informed parents that they do not have to wait for 24 hours to report a missing child.
“If the child goes to Old Harbour high, by 4 o’clock if there is special function at school and that child is not seen, take a recent photograph of the child and make the report right away,” he instructed.
He pointed out that in the case of an abused child, the law makes provisions for action to be taken toPROTECT that child.
“You don’t have to wait to see the abuses, the law says if you have reasonable suspicion that the child is being abused, action can be taken,” Smith informed the gathering of mainly mothers.
He said anyone can call the OCR if they think that something is not right with a child in the community.
“Just take up thatPHONE and call the OCR and relate what your suspicions are,” he stated.
A panel which comprised different agencies, including thePOLICE community relations officer for Old Harbour, Sergeant Princess Bayliss, answered various questions from the audience.
The overwhelming concerns included the safety of children and the response of law enforcement to missing children.