The month of May is Child’s Month and under The Child Care And Protection Act, a child is defined as a person under the age of eighteen years. Many persons are not aware that there are laws to protect the rights of a child and this week we want to examine some of the rights that our children.
The rights of children can be broadly placed in three categories: Provision Rights, Protection Rights and Participation Rights. Each of these rights complement each other and serves as a basic guideline for how a child should be treated and cared for.
Parents have a duty to make sure that children have all they need for their survival, growth and development. This duty applies to all parents and guardians, including foster parents and step-parents. Their basic needs are a right to food, shelter and clothing. A child who is living without their basic rights is in need of care and protection. Parents who neglect children by not looking after their basic needs can be punished under the law.
Children should not be neglected or left on their own. They must not be abused or placed in an abusive home. Children must also be protected from child trafficking. This is recruitment, transportation or transfer of a child for the purpose of forced labour and exploitation.
According to the Statistical Bulletin of January-December 2015 published by the Office of the Children’s Registry, neglect was identified as the most common report received by the OCR over the years. 51 per cent of the total reports made to the OCR in 2015 had elements of neglect. The other categories which featured high percentages were children in need of care and protection (41%), those who exhibited behavioural problems (35%) and children who were sexually abused (27%).
Children should be given an opportunity to participate and express how they feel. They should be included in minor decision making and should be asked their opinion and be listened to when they share their thoughts.
All children have rights and their rights should be protected from discrimination. Any adult can protect the rights of a child by making a report, if they think that the child is being harmed or needs care and protection. The report can be made to The Child Protection and Family Services Agency or any police station. As Jimmy Cliff says:
“Treat the youths right
Instead of putting up a fight
Treat the youths right
Or you’ll been playin’ with dynamite”
Abi-Gaye White-Thomas B.A., LL.B (Hons)