|No night out for street kids
Gov’t seeking help of retired cops to keep them off the road
|TANEISHA LEWIS, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, April 05, 2007
|Students from Dor’s Basic School perform a dialect titled ‘Weh mi fadda deh’, during Wednesday’s launch of Child Month, at the Scout Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston. Enjoying the presentation are Douglas Orane (left), the patron of Child Month, and Health Minister Horace Dalley. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)|
GOVERNMENT, grappling with the growing problem of children roaming the streets, especially at nights, plans to use retired policemen to keep them off and warned parents that they would face prosecution.
"We want retired policemen who have an interest to form a little night squad to get them (children) off the streets," Health Minister Horace Dalley told the Observer after Wednesday’s launch of Child Month at the Scout Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston.
The Child Development Agency (CDA), said the minister, would be seeking to find a location to house the children where they would be cared for until their parents are located. "We haven’t really worked out the logistic, but we are going to also find the parents and prosecute the parents," the minister added.
Current figures were not available, but the 2002 National Survey of Street and Working Children estimated the number of affected children as 6,448, with 20 per cent of them being boys. The report was prepared by Ruel Cooke from Worker Management Services Limited for the Ministry of Health.
The survey said the majority of children of the street (those who work and live on the streets) – 58.5 per cent – indicated that they wanted to return home, but less than 40 per cent of them were able, for one reason or other, to do so.
During Wednesday’s launch of Child Month, to be observed in May, Dalley said one of his personal mandates as the minister of health was to ensure that parents who neglect their children are held accountable.
"If it is the last thing I am going to do before I exit the public office, I want to ensure that parents are held accountable when they neglect their children," he said. "I want to rid the streets of children at nights. I don’t expect to see children on the street begging at night," said Dalley, whose ministry is responsible for children services.
He said while there were street children on the road begging money or assisting parents with selling goods to support their family, there should be no reason why a child should be on the streets unaccompanied and left to the perils of the night.
The minister’s announcement was immediately welcomed by Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke.
"I commend the minister for this initiative that he is going to have implemented to get children off the streets at nights," Clarke told the Observer after the launch of Child Month. "Children have no right to be on the street after certain hours.
I commend him for his statement that parents are going to be held accountable. We have to find the parents and we have to hold them accountable. And we have to seek to find out where they need advice education, support service because we are here to help parents but they must be held accountable," said Clarke.