‘Be wise, open your eyes, spot it, stop it and report it.’ was the mantra consistently repeated at the launch of a child-friendly space which took place at the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC) on Tuesday, February 20.

The US-Jamaica Child Protection Compact partnership which started in 2018 has developed child-friendly spaces to provide a safe haven for vulnerable individuals, with a focus on psychological support and trust building.

A child-friendly space is an environment designed to help children who are victims of crime to feel safe, calm, and comfortable while interacting with professionals, including law enforcement officers, social workers, healthcare professionals and prosecutors.

Children who access the facilities will also be able to get counselling, emotional support, crisis intervention, court preparation, and victim advocacy for child victims of crime, including human trafficking. These spaces offer activities that promote healing, resilience, and positive interactions. Through play, art, and counselling, children can express their feelings and find comfort. Trained staff in these spaces offer personalized support and assist children with rediscovering their self-worth as well as coping with trauma.

Ms. Uzra Zeya, State Department Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights who was in attendance expressed, “This space is a sanctuary for children who have endured the horrors of crime and will be staffed by compassionate members of the force. This space born out of the US-Jamaica Child Protection Compact partnership represents the culmination of years of collaboration and shared commitment between our two nations.”

Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police who also was present at the launch highlighted and emphasized the collaboration to address child trafficking, “ the institutional framework around human trafficking has been developed over time. A significant part of it is the support we’ve been getting from the US government which helps to resource us to do what we do.”

Among the attendees were Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr. Fitz Biley, Ms. Audrey Budhi – Director, of Children & Family Programmes, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony McLaughlin and other heads of agencies.

This recent launch of a new child-friendly space reflects a deepening commitment to collaborative efforts, essential for paving the way toward a safer Jamaica, particularly for our children. We are reminded that creating a safe place for children to disclose their adverse experiences is essential. Child-friendly spaces are essential for abused children because they offer safety, healing, play, and a chance to reclaim their childhood. These spaces empower children to overcome adversity and build a brighter future.

Report the abuse and contact agencies that are there to support you (in addition to police and child welfare agencies, there are sexual assault centers and child advocacy centers that will provide support for survivors and their families). Communicate what the child shared clearly to supporting agencies so that they can best support the child.

Persons can call crime stop anonymous Tip line at 311, ONRTIP(876) 583-3011, 211,811,1-876-967-1398/922-3771 or email tip.ocid@jcf.gov.jm