|A child’s most critical need: security |
By Sasha Harrinanan Sunday, April 13 2014
The most critical need a child has is security. Therefore, a lack of security can have a profoundly negative effect on a child’s life and his ability to succeed.
Dr Leighton M Jackson, a lawyer with years of experience in Family Law and who currently serves as the Acting Registrar of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), was one of the speakers at a workshop on “The Courts and the Protection of Children,” during the inaugural conference of the Caribbean Association of Women Judges (CAWJ) held from March 27- 29 at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.
Said Dr Jackson:
“The most critical need a child has is security. There’s nothing else that means as much to a child...Most of the problems we’re having in society are due to this lack of security. The anger, the anxiety, that causes all this ‘acting out,’ comes from a child’s lack of security.”
Saying he wasn’t “preaching” to anyone, Jackson made a case for adoption of neglected and/or troubled children.
“My first son came to us when he was about eight years old. He was doing poorly in school, so we took him to get tested and that’s when we found out he couldn’t read and write. There was nothing at all wrong with his mind. It was due to sheer neglect, and within a year, he was reading well.”
Showing the audience a photo of his son in a military uniform, Jackson told them how the boy who once couldn’t read ended up pursuing a degree in Engineering before deciding to enlist in the United States’ Army.
He then challenged everyone who has “complained about children and young people today,” to give them an opportunity to grow up in a safe, secure home.
“I have two requests of you. Get our legislatures and persons who have the power to ‘ease up’ on the adoption process in various ways, because we have to rescue these children from where they are. Putting them in State homes is not an option. Second, ask yourself how you can help provide the security our children need, because they are our future.”
Jackson’s advice was supported by statements made in a subsequent workshop by Senior Resident Magistrate and Judge of the Kingston and St Andrew Family Court in Jamaica, Paula A. Blake-Powell.
Speaking on the topic of “Children in Care/Custody in the Caribbean,” the judge noted security is often missing in a child’s life because the mother and father were lacking the requisite parenting skills.
“The National Parenting Support Commission was recently established (November 2013) based on the fact that parenting is very important, and many times, it is the lack of parenting skills which causes children to end up in the criminal justice system.”
Blake-Powell said the commission’s executive director is responsible for establishing parenting centres all across Jamaica, from which “they go out into the community to teach parents how to be more effective.”
This includes sessions in conflict resolution, child development, reproductive health, how to punish or discipline your child without having to hit your child, sexuality, and teaching parents how to look at income opportunities because, as Blake-Powell noted:
“Sometimes the parents are stressed - they don’t have enough money for example, and then they turn on the children.”
Jamaica’s Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla, commented on the matter too, saying it was regrettable more parents aren’t “held to account.”
“Many of them would rather just ‘fob off’ their children on the court system rather than take responsibility. These initiatives are all an attempt to get parents to be responsible and to be accountable,” she stated.