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Watching this video you can see my emotions. In some way I felt as helpless as the children in state care involved in these critical incidents that I was reading about.
“April 27: Two wards got into a fight after a rap session. One girl came behind the other with a broken wine glass and stabbed her over the eye. The other twisted her hand around and forced her to stab herself in the face.”
Some of these children don’t have the capacity to articulate or express how helpless they are, because they don’t know who they can trust.
Children helpless, don’t know who to trust
You can clearly see my anger, which is not an emotion I wanted to see recorded, but in combination with what other people were feeling, it really humbled me.
As I continued to read, that anger was followed by frustration that all this time you have kids placed in a state care, which is a position where one would think that it would be for their safety, well-being and best interests.
What stands out for me is how brave these kids are to tell their story. Especially painful is that secrecy places guilt on the victim by leaving it on them to break that silence. Can you imagine being so young, experiencing all of what they have, and still having hope, no matter how small, that in speaking out some change will come?
Traumatic incidents scar for life
When they have to re-tell their story, it is so painful. It is like going through it all over again. Being scarred for life is what you don’t get over, and if these if incidents are not resolved then when they become like us, adults, they will always carry that trauma with them.
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As an attorney at Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) advocating for children, I am happy to be in a position to make a difference, but it is heavy. If you asked me to describe it I could only say, ‘It’s a lot’.
JFJ hopeful of improving situation
There is a constant contemplation; I am constantly tangled in that. And there are compounded issues where a child goes from being a victim to becoming an offender and you sometimes don’t know where to start.
Yet I am actually confident that there will be change, that the work that will be put in this time around will certainly bring about the change and structure that is needed. There are a lot of barriers that we need to be broken, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction
Many people don’t want to face this problem. These children are put away in institutions that are ill-equipped to serve their needs. Sometimes to protect a system we find that information about children’s lived experiences and the trauma they face is not passed around readily as it should be.”
Jamaica must face the realities these children do
Then you have management or personnel at the institutions, and the way how blame is distributed and situations are managed is not indicative of the reality these children face
We as adults are not in the situation of powerlessness that these children are in. We can only hope that despite what some of them have been through, that when we see them smile even for a short time, that it is real. I think they can only escape their situation if they get some redress and their situation changes – and that is what this work by JFJ is about.
UNICEF and Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) have forged a new partnership to address improvements needed for children in state care. As part of the initiative, JFJ is undertaking the most comprehensive study of its kind to examine the state care landscape in Jamaica, including quality of care for wards of the state.