New Child Ambassadors will be appointed during May by the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
The engagement, which forms part of the OCR’s activities commemorating May as Child Month, will see the Ambassadors receiving their instruments of appointment on May 22.
The ambassadorial designations entail one young person being selected from each parish for appointment to serve in that position for one year.
Eight candidates have, thus far, been interviewed for consideration by the OCR. The agency is currently conducting other interviews, with a view to securing representation for all parishes.
Launched in 2012, the Child Ambassador’s programme is one of the OCR’s initiatives aimed at getting more children involved in the fight against child abuse, raising awareness of the child abuse reporting procedure, and helping abused children who may be suffering in silence.
In his message for Child Month, OCR Registrar, Greig Smith, encouraged adults to foster positive relationships with the nation’s children by ensuring their rights and welfare are protected.
“They have rights of provision, protection, and participation. They should be sheltered from exploitation and danger; and they should be allowed to freely express themselves in positive, structured, and creative ways,” he stated.
Mr. Smith said the OCR received more than 6,000 reports of known or suspected cases of child abuse, from January to June, last year.
“Of equal concern is the figures for missing children for January to March 2014, which indicate that a total of 502 children went missing for the period, 309 (of whom) returned safely, 193 are still missing, and two have been confirmed dead,” he added.
Consequent on this, Mr. Smith called on Jamaicans to work together to change this “sad reality”, and urged them to “be the change, (and) speak out, (to) protect our children.”
Meanwhile, Minister Hanna, in her Child Month message, said the Child Development Agency (CDA), an agency of the Ministry, has made parental assistance one of its priority targets to deal with issues related to the care and protection of children.
“Indeed, it is very clear that if we are to do all we can for our children, we must ensure that parents lead,” she said, adding that child abuse reports from the OCR, between January to June of 2013, revealed the majority of these relating to child neglect.
“The apparent rise in parental neglect is a worrying development that we must address, as a matter of urgency,” she said.
The Minister said the CDA has developed best practices for effective parenting in an effort to reduce cases of neglect and child abuse. She further advised that almost 1,500 parents participated in the CDA’s Parenting Assistance Programme in 2012/13.
Ms. Hanna urged Jamaicans to take a special interest in the nation’s children and “encourage them; look out for them; look after them; and celebrate their achievements.”
By Elaine Hartman Reckord