Children are truly gifts from God; they are precious, fragile, insightful, and are dependent on parents and caregivers for love, support, guidance, care and protection. They have rights of provision, protection and participation. If their needs are to be met, they should be sheltered from exploitation and danger and they should be allowed to freely express themselves in positive, structured and creative ways.
Children welfare services are concerned with the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children, particularly children suffering from the effects of poverty or lacking normal parental care and supervision. Welfare Services are geared at safeguarding children from abuse, and neglect. Therefore, to be effective, services rely on legislature and polices geared towards protecting children. These documents are used to propel action that preserve families and ensure safety and stability of children who are at risk from abuse or neglect.
In this paper, the history of child welfare services will be explored, together with procedures and laws in place to govern the practice of child welfare within the Jamaican context.
THE HISTORY OF CHILWELFARE SERVICES IN JAMAICA
The care and protection of the most vulnerable group in the society is seen as integral to the development process. However, children were not always given such priority status at the beginning as the emphasis was on economic growth and the focus was on adults. As the economy continue to fail, the international society called for more attention to be paid to social development. As the social side of development grew in importance and from 1946 when the Declaration of Human Rights was passed, the rights-based approach to development appeared increasingly important. Accordingly on November 20, 1989, some 70 Heads of Government adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), forever transforming the way the world views children. The Convention was ratified more quickly than any other international treaty in history.
The CRC spells out the basic human rights that every child under age 18 has, which include: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols: the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. The provisions of the CRC were transformed into specific, measurable and time bound goals in 1990 at the World Summit for Children (WSC), where world leaders adopted a Plan of Action for implementing the Summit’s Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in the 1990s. At the United Nations Special Session on Children in 2002, 180 nations adopted the outcome document, “A World Fit for Children” a new agenda outlining 21 specific goals and targets for the next decade. This agenda commits leaders to completing the unfinished agenda of the 1990 WSC, and to achieving other goals and objectives, in particular the UN Millennium Declaration of 2000, from which emerged the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2001.
Jamaica ratified the CRC in 1991, after much advocacy by the Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child (JCRC). A newly-formed non-governmental organization (NGO) at the time, the JCRC brought together six NGOs working with children to lobby for the ratification of the CRC and monitor its