Protecting Jamaica’s Children: The OCR, OCA and CDA

Our children are the future of our world. Our legacies will live on through them. It is therefore a society’s responsibility to ensure that it does everything within its power to protect and defend the welfare of its future generations. In Jamaica, the Child Care and Protection Act (2004) was crafted to do exactly what its name says: provide legal guidelines for the care and protection of the nation’s children. Many people do not understand the differences between the three agencies in Jamaica that deal with children: the Child Development Agency (CDA), the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR). The following information, taken directly from their respective websites, explains a little bit about each.

The Child Development Agency (CDA)

“The Child Development Agency (CDA) is a leader in Jamaica’s child protection system, with … work in promoting child-friendly policies and ground-breaking programmes to strengthen families. Established in 2004, out of a merger of the Child Support Unit, the Child Services Division, and the Adoption Division, the CDA is now under the purview of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

In carrying out its mandate, the agency:

  • Provides support to children in need of care and protection (those who have been, abused, abandoned, neglected or vulnerable due to disability);
  • Carries out advocacy/public education programmes to prevent child abuse;
  • reports of child abuse, abandonment and neglect to determine the best interest of the child which supports the Courts and the Police;
  • Provides quality care for children who are brought into the care of the State (those who live in children’s homes and places of safety).
  • Advises government on policy and legal issues relating to children.

The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA)

“The Office of the Children’s Advocate is a Commission of Parliament mandated to enforce and protect the rights and best interests of children. The Office was established in 2006 under the Child Care and Protection Act (2004).” The Children’s Advocate is mandated to PROTECT and ENFORCE the RIGHTS of CHILDREN and PROMOTE their BEST INTERESTS at all times. The functions of the OCA are:

Administrative: The OCA may provide assistance to children who want to make a complaint against a relevant authority that has infringed their rights and/or adversely affected their best interests and the OCA should maintain proper records of complaints received without revealing personal details of the child concerned.

Consultative: Consult with children and their caregivers about the role and functions of the OCA and about current issues that are affecting them.

Educational and Advisory: (1) Educate the public, especially children, about the role and functions of the OCA and how they may communicate with the OCA. (2) Give advice and make recommendations to Parliament, Ministries and other Relevant Authorities on matters concerning the rights and best interests of children.

Investigative: (1) Receive and conduct investigations on behalf of children against government authorities. (2) Conduct investigations in instances where there are complaints that a child’s rights and best interest are infringed.

Legal: (1) Provide legal representation for children who need it. These children can be referred by the court. (2) Bring non-criminal court proceedings before the court or tribunal on behalf of a child (3) Intervene in any proceedings before a court or tribunal involving law and practice concerning the rights or best interests of children.

Regulatory: (1) Review services provided for children by relevant authorities, for example: educational institutions, state care homes, juvenile facilities, and health care facilities. (2) Review laws and practices relating to the rights and best interests of children.

The Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR)

The main role of the Children’s Registry is to receive reports of children who have been, are being or are likely to be abandoned, neglected, physically or sexually ill-treated, or are otherwise in need of care and protection. After receiving these reports, the Children’s Registry records, assesses and then refers the reports to the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) for their investigation and action.

The Children’s Registry also serves as a repository where statistics on incidences of child abuse in Jamaica may be found and used to inform operational and child friendly policies and guidelines. In addition, through regular monitoring of the trends, the Registrar will be able to indicate which types of services are needed and where they are needed.”