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JM | Dec 16, 2020

Jamaican gov’t hints at sweeping changes to abandoned babies, adoption issues

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Found in good health, the discovery of this newborn baby in downtown Kingston has swept Jamaica iup n a flurry of emotions.

As authorities grapple with what to do following the discovery of an abandoned baby at the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston on Monday (December 14), the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) has activated its processes to treat the newborn as a matter of urgency.

In a statement on Wednesday, State Minister in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Robert Nesta Morgan, said 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. 

“We understand the hardship and emotional stress that parents sometimes encounter. Abandoning a child is an act driven by desperation, and we should be compassionate towards any parent who feels that is the best option for their child,” Morgan indicated.

State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Robert Nesta Morgan. (Photo: JIS)

“The child’s best interest is always paramount. There are existing facilities to receive and take care of abandoned babies and babies relinquished by the birth parent 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. 

For her part, portfolio minister Fayval Williams noted there needs to be ‘fundamental change’ in how the society and state handle the issues of adoption and abandonment.

“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,” she said.

According to state minister Morgan, there are over 100 approved adopters waiting for a child to be placed with them by the CPFSA; some on the waitlist for as long as five years.

Several older children in state care are also eligible for adoption, however, the lengthy processing times in their cases is another priority action the education ministry has mandated the CPFSA to work on.

Senator Robert Nesta Morgan. (Photo: JIS)

“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 far sooner than currently obtains,” Robert Nesta Morgan stated.

To further the agenda, Youth Minister Fayval Williams indicated that the government is working to fast-track 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 birth parents,” she asserted.

Education Minister Fayval Williams. (Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson, JIS)

In the meantime, Senator Morgan opined that babies, when abandoned, go directly into the care of loving foster families, while the CPFSA investigators make attempts to locate the biological family and determine if it is in the child’s best interest to be returned to them.

“Abandoned and relinquished babies should not be in facilities. We will announce and implement the changes early next year,” he contended.  

“The CPFSA needs all of Jamaica’s support to perform their mandate. Admittedly the agency needs more resources to better carry out their 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 forever family is much too long. This must change,” Morgan added.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, responding to reports from a homeless man, found the newborn baby girl in the Coronation Market around 7:00 pm on Monday.

The child was subsequently taken to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, where she was found to be in good health.

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