KINGSTON, Jamaica – A 211 helpline for use by children at risk of abuse or persons who wish to make a report will be launched next month, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams said Wednesday.
Contributing to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, she said the move follows approval from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).
“This helpline will be manned 24 hours by childcare professionals and will be a significant addition to the child-protection ecosystem. We will be launching 211 during this year’s Child Month [in May] and a further announcement will be made on the technical aspects of this important initiative,” the Minister said.
Turning to other measures to strengthen childcare and protection, she said that the Ministry has drafted a Cabinet submission to amend the Child Care and Protection Act to remove an aspect of Section 24 under which a judge may make a correctional order in respect of a child brought before the court.
“This will be repealed and replaced with an option for the court to make a therapeutic order. This is an important development, as it will finally end the practice of labelling our children uncontrollable and placing them in penal institutions without charge,” she told the House.
The submission will be made to Cabinet in short order.
Minister Williams said that the Ministry is also in the process of drafting a robust adoption policy, with the expectation that the policy and Adoption Act will be tabled in the next fiscal year.
“Since being brought into effect in 1958, the Children (Adoption of) Act has not been subjected to a comprehensive process of being reviewed and updated. There is the need for a substantive revision and reformulation of adoption legislation that will address the evolving needs of modern Jamaican society,” she said.