A Panel Discussion in which Mrs. Diahann Gordon-Harrison, Children’s Advocate, was the main presenter was one of the highlights on the second day (Tuesday, April 8) of the recently-concluded Diocesan Synod. The focus was “Children, Crime, Corruption – A Case Study of Jamaica’s Adolescents.”
The Children’s Advocate defined corruption as “the cold calculated theft of opportunity that stifles economic growth, undermines social capital, shows contempt for law and order and fosters inequitable distribution of wealth.” She referred to a Survey conducted by her Office in 2014, which showed children as both perpetrators and victims of corruption and crimes, including murder. The Survey featured Focus Group sessions involving youngsters from the Rio Cobre Juvenile Facility and the Children’s Advisory Panel – a caucus group established by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and which meets monthly.
Mrs. Gordon-Harrison cited statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force which indicated that in 2012/13 there were 479 offences in which children were perpetrators and this number increased to 565 in 2013/14.
She explained that while some members of both Focus Groups shared similar community backgrounds and home life, the persons who influenced their socialization were very different. This, it was believed, accounted for the deviant behavior in one group compared to members of the other group. Referring to a Social Learning Theory which states that children emulate the behaviour of people around them, Mrs. Gordon-Harrison emphasized the importance of positive role models. She recommended the strengthening of parenting and conflict resolution programmes with the establishment of parent hubs in communities, as well as, robust and continuous education programmes at the national level to reinforce community initiatives.
The Children’s Advocate revealed that parental neglect was the leading category of child abuse with reported cases increasing from 6,675 in 2011 to 7,185 in 2012. She also highlighted the negative impact of social media through which youth were being subliminally prepared to receive sexual attention. She noted that cases of sexual abuse of children increased from 2,671 cases in 2011 to 2,756 in 2012; and that parents were often perpetrators of this abuse.
Mrs. Gordon Harrison asserted that ill-equipped parents were incapable of nurturing well-adjusted children, and she urged members of the Church to help address this situation by guiding youngsters with whom they interact, building their self-esteem and speaking out against child abuse.
Panellists included Mr. Sterling Soares of St. Andrew Parish Church; Sister Myrel Moss of the Church Army; Mrs. Phyllis Webster of the Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Molynes Road; Miss Philippa Williams of St. George’s Church, East Street; and the Rev. Mary Graham, Rector of St. George’s Church, Grand Cayman. Moderator was Dr. Desiree Charles-Christie also of
St. George’s Church, Grand Cayman. They recommended that churches, especially those in the inner-city, step up efforts to attract children to Sunday School where sound values can be instilled. Mentorship of at-risk families and children, as well as, expansion of the Mothers’ Union Parenting Programme were among other interventions suggested.