Minister of Education, Youth and Information the Hon. Fayval Williams says that there needs to be fundamental changes in how the society and state handle the issues of adoption and abandonment of children.
“We need to better support families and parents in need, whether to improve their material and psycho-social situation so they are able to care for and raise their child, or to place the child with one of the many approved, waiting families,” Minister Williams said in response to news reports of a baby abandoned at the Coronation Market in Kingston on Monday, December 14.
At the same time, Minister of State in the Ministry, Robert Nesta Morgan who has direct responsibility for the youth and information portfolios notes that the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which falls under the Ministry, has activated its processes to take control of the situation of the baby abandoned at Coronation Market, as a matter of urgency.
According to Minister Morgan, “We understand the hardship and emotional stress that parents sometimes encounter. Abandoning a child is an act often driven by desperation, and we should be compassionate towards any parent who feels that is the best option for their child.” He notes that while the policy of the government is to have children remain with their biological families, there are situations in which this is just not possible.
“The child’s best interest is always paramount. There are existing facilities to receive and take care of abandoned babies and babies given up by the birthparent at the hospital. However, the child’s best interest is to be placed with an approved foster family or prospective adopter without delay,” he added.
There are over one hundred approved adopters waiting for the CPFSA to place a child with them and some have been on the list for as long as five years.
“Minister Williams and I have been working with the CPFSA to deal specifically with the issues of babies left unattended, and babies who are left at the hospital, with a view to placing them with families quicker than currently obtains,” Mr. Morgan explained. “There are also several older children in state care who may be eligible for adoption. Processing their cases is another priority action we have mandated the CPFSA to work on. “
The Minister of State says babies who are abandoned should go directly into the arms of loving foster families, who will care for them while the CPFSA carries out its investigations even as it tries to locate the biological family and determine if it is in the child’s best interest to be returned to them.
“We have spent the last two months working towards making this standard procedure, and Cabinet will very soon be asked to give direction on this issue. Abandoned and relinquished babies should not be in facilities. We will announce and implement the changes early next year,” Mr. Morgan said.
In addition, he is urging Jamaicans to support to the CPFSA in carrying out its mandate. “Admittedly the agency needs more resources to better carry out its duties. We are seeking to increase the number of social workers and build the agency’s capacity to shorten the timelines between children entering care and being placed in approved foster or adoptive families. The time it takes for a child to be placed with a permanent family is much too long. This must change.”
Minister Williams and Minister Nesta Morgan are also currently working on fast-tracking the tabling of a new Adoption Act.
“Our 1958 Act was copied from the British; they have revised their laws four times since. Our adoption laws and processes need to be updated to better serve children who are adopted, the families that adopt them, and birthparents,” Minister Williams said.