The Child Care and Protection Act was passed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the best interests, safety and well-being of children across Jamaica.
Here are six facts from the Act:
The Act recognises that the family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents. However, it also stipulates the need for the necessary support services or alternative environments when the best interest of the child is not being met by the family unit.
The Office of the Children’s Advocate, the Children’s Register and Office of the Children’s Registry were all established under this Act. The OCA was established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children; the Children’s Advocate is appointed by the Governor General. The Children’s Register consists of such information as supplied by persons such as health professionals, school faculty, social workers and anyone who makes a report to the Registry regarding suspected ill-treatment of a child.
It outlines the circumstances under which a child may be removed from his/her family, including abuse, neglect and the parents’ inability to take care of the child, or control the child if he/she is exhibiting negative behaviour.
The Act stipulates the guidelines for placing children in the care of the state, their rights thereafter, and circumstances under which they may be transferred or removed from these facilities.
It outlines the ages at which a child may gain employment, and specific terms of said employment. For instance, a child may begin working at 13, “no person shall employ a child who has attained the age of 13 years, but who has not attained the age of 15 years, in the performance of any work… [other than] (a) such light work as the Minister responsible for labour considers appropriate for the employment of any child of the age referred to… and (b) specifying the number of hours during which and the conditions under which such child may be so employed.”
The Act makes it clear that no child under the age of 12 years can be guilty of an offence – the ‘age of criminal responsibility.’ It also sets out how those over this age who run afoul of the law are to be treated in the justice system – Children’s Court, Juvenile Court, etc.