Laws governing child protection and juvenile justice in St. Kitts and Nevis are being reviewed at a two-day workshop organized by the Ministry of Social Development, Gender Affairs, Ageing and Disabilities.
The review, commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Geoffrey Hanley, began on Tuesday (September 06, 2022) at the Early Childhood Development Conference Room. It marks the first legislative action for the Ministry under his leadership. It brings together various stakeholders across child protection and juvenile justice systems including parents and juveniles.
Permanent Secretary Janelle Lewis-Tafari said that the review is particularly important as it will help to establish clearly defined roles for the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs and the Probation and Child Welfare Board.
“Today we meet as agency representatives of child protection and juvenile justice to discuss and deliberate on one of the most important tenets of our child protection system, the Probation and Child Welfare Board,” Mrs. Lewis-Tafari shared at a brief ceremony to mark the start of the consultation. “
The Board was established in 1994. It has oversight for the care and protection of children and gives guidance to the relevant government departments. The Permanent Secretary noted that in 2013, the functioning of the Board was enhanced following the enactment of several pieces of family legislation modelled after the OECS family law reforms bills. The expanded responsibilities resulted in an overlap and ambiguities in some cases, of some roles and responsibilities.
“For example, [prior] to 2013, our probation officers could go to the court and present a case to remove a child from a situation where they were being abused,” she stated. However, as the reforms took place, “the officers were now told by the court, in accordance with the law, they needed a lawyer from the Board.”
This review workshop is being facilitated by Rohan Walters, Crown Counsel and legal advisor to the Probation and Child Welfare Board. Revisions will focus on the functions of the Probation and Child Welfare Board Act and complementary legislation.
Honourable Isalean Phillip, Junior Minister of Social Development and Gender Affairs, is participating in the two-day workshop. She encouraged the participants to be candid during the deliberations and assured them of the government’s commitment to this exercise.
“I want to reiterate the commitment of your ministers to take these recommendations to consider them, to take them to Cabinet. We’ve already kind of earmarked to the attorney general that we are coming with this legislation,” the Junior Minister Phipps said. . “We are going to make sure that this social development and this Child Welfare Board Act and all of the legislation that are connected to that is prioritized because we are doing this in the interest of our children.”
Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Geoffrey Hanley also attended the opening ceremony.