OCA corrects report on proposed 211 children’s line

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has moved to clarify aspects of a story published by the Jamaica Observer yesterday under the headline ‘OCA supports new 211 helpline for children’.

Harrison pointed out that her comments on the proposed 211 number being established by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information during a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange were not an endorsement.

“While I understand the desire to move to a simpler number I have given no endorsement of 211. In fact, in a bid to explain differences that exist, I have repeatedly said that 211 does not have all the features of a traditional helpline as far as I understand it. It is a child abuse reporting line that will function much in the same way as the current 1-888-PROTECT line that the National Children’s Registry currently operates,” underscored Gordon Harrison.

“Not only is the content extremely inaccurate and misleading, but it has grossly added to the mass confusion that has been swirling in the public domain and at the end of the day it is the children who are being short-changed the most,” added Gordon Harrison.

The children’s advocate also pointed out that the 1-888-PROTECT line is not a partnership involving the OCA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) as reported by the Observer yesterday.

“The 1-888-PROTECT number is the number attached to the registry which is separate from the OCA and not as a result of any partnership with the OCA, UNICEF and PSOJ. This will only confuse the public and children and is extremely unfortunate,” said Gordon Harrison.

The OCA, UNICEF, PSOJ helpline is intended to exclusively assist children who may be facing increased vulnerabilities and feeling overwhelmed with adapting to the changes caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and who need a dedicated outlet to confidentially express themselves.

It will be staffed by psychologists and guidance counsellors and will serve as an innovative and necessary addition to the arsenal of tools that are available to support children.

Gordon Harrison underscored that: “It is expected that with the new helpline that is a collaboration with OCA, UNICEF and PSOJ children will be able to speak directly with trained persons via telephone calls, SMS text messages, e-mail, WhatsApp and other social media platforms”.

“What that helpline purports to do is to service only children and it doesn’t take reports, what it does is to provide listening ear services, therapeutic services as the need may arise and counselling services directly to children.

“It is a helpline because we can accommodate multiple calls at the same time. We are not logging any reports and therefore not duplicating the efforts of the registry. We are just providing that service. So a child can reach out for either big or small matters that bother them and be connected with someone who will give them proper advice whether for self-esteem issues, something they are struggling with, or for depression and this service is only for children,” noted Gordon Harrison.

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