Neighbours, schools urged to report abuse as CPFSA recalls 48 children lost tragically
In a deeply moving ceremony in Linstead, St Catherine, on Friday, the names of 48 children who died under tragic circumstances between October 2022 and October 2023 were solemnly announced.
Students, holding placards bearing the names, observed a poignant moment of silence to honour the fallen as the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) held four regional children’s marches and social services fairs.
The emotional weight of the tribute was palpable, leaving Youth State Minister Marsha Smith and master of ceremonies Jennifer ‘Jenny Jenny’ Small visibly overwhelmed.
Unable to hold back tears, Smith emphasised the significance of the event, stating, “Awareness has to come from the grassroots level. In this context, grassroots mean young children being aware of what is an appropriate treatment for themselves, whether it be verbal or sexual.”
“They need to know what the correct standards of care are and what is in place to address any failure,” she continued.
The state minister highlighted the crucial role of the 211 helpline established for children to report abuse, urging individuals and institutions to use it as a vital resource in protecting children.
“Their schools can make the call. Neighbours beside a family where they are aware of children being in unsafe circumstances can make the call,” Smith said, while acknowledging the pivotal role of guidance counsellors within schools as guardians against child abuse.
The national event, held under the theme ‘Protect di Children, Don’t Hurt and Abuse Dem!’, was initially planned to coincide with the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse on November 19. However, adverse weather conditions prompted the rescheduling.
Marches and fairs echoed the call to protect children in towns across all four CPFSA regions. Along with Linstead in the South East region, there were events in Port Maria, St Mary, in the North East; May Pen, Clarendon, in the Southern region; and Falmouth, Trelawny, in the Western region.
In Linstead, uniformed children’s groups and stakeholders in child protection marched from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, proceeding through the town and back to raise awareness.
A key moment saw the planting of a tree in recognition of all the children who lost their lives to violence.
Other speakers from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the National Council on Drug Abuse, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force underscored the importance of safeguarding children. They also provided tips to raise awareness about instances of abuse.