Each year on May 25, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) commemorates International Missing Children’s Day, an occasion that serves as a reminder of the countless children who have gone missing, leaving families devastated and communities in turmoil.
The day also serves as an opportunity for organisations and Government bodies to raise awareness about the importance of child safety and the collective responsibility we all bear in protecting our most vulnerable members.
In Jamaica, many children go missing every month. Their pictures are often displayed on several media platforms, with desperate pleas from family members and friends for any information that could lead to their safe return.
One case, in particular that many Jamaicans can recall is the missing report for Ananda Dean, an 11-year-old female who went missing in 2008.
Reports are that Dean went missing after she left the Swallowfield All-Age School on Whitehall Avenue after the closing school bell rang. When she did not return home, her family sent a missing child report that would lead to the news every parent dreads.
After sharing her photo on the news platforms and light posts across the area, the nation was rocked by news of the discovery of the decomposing remains of an 11-year-old girl found dumped in bushes in Cypress Hill in Belvedere, St Andrew.
A DNA test revealed that the body was that of Ananda Dean.
Dean was raped and murdered. Her untimely death shocked the nation, but no one has been charged for her murder, and the investigation is closed.
To prevent these instances and ensure the safety of the nation’s children, the Ananda Alert System was implemented, and became operational in May 2009. The system was enforced to ensure the safe and speedy recovery of a missing child if reported missing.
This year, in honour of International Missing Child Day, the CPFSA will host a youth forum today (May 25) to address the crisis of missing children in Jamaica.
The main objectives of the forum are to engage young persons in discussions surrounding their safety and contributing factors to missing episodes, to highlight ‘red-flag’ behaviours and the warning signs of predators, and for participants to understand the increased risks associated with going missing.
Jamaica is also commemorating the entire month of May as National Child’s month, under the theme: ‘Children need our love and protection…Get involved.’