In the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands we believe that ‘Every Child Counts’! – UCJCI Child Protection Policy Committee
At the Synod of 2015 the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands passed a resolution to develop a Child Protection Policy for the whole church. A policy that would not only protect our children but would protect our leaders most of whom are volunteers. As a church community we need to ensure and understand how to take appropriate measures to protect our children’s rights and promote violence-free communities. This policy will ensure that your child is and will always be protected within any congregational setting or activities organized by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Rev Dr Margaret Fowler, Chairman of the Child Protection Policy Committee stressed that, “For the United Church this is more than just writing a statement for guidelines, this is a powerful commitment – a totally new strategy of engagement – a church that values its children and young people above rubies.”
The Cayman Islands Regional Mission Council conducted its 2nd Child Protection Policy Workshop on August 27, 2016, which a total of 63 youth workers and volunteers within the church attended. The workshop began with a brief Bible study and devotion where participants were able to engage with Scripture, discussing how many important people in the Bible came from broken homes and rough childhoods.
Mrs. Diane Montoya, gave a presentation on the Children’s Law that was revised in 2012 in the Cayman Islands. She also spoke about the church’s responsibility in the life of children. She underlined the church’s responsibility to teach children what is right and what is wrong. She said, “The church has a role in protecting children; what is that? To teach right and wrong and to spread the gospel…we as children of God have a responsibility to show everyone else how children are supposed to be treated”.
More importantly, Mrs. Montoya aptly captured an underlying issue in Cayman society when she said, “We live in a small-knit society, so it is not unusual for issues to be kept in the home; for an issue to become silent. We choose not to talk and encourage the children not to talk. The silence is a part of our culture. We need to make decisions in the best interest of the child.”
The Regional Deputy General Secretary of the Cayman Islands Regional Mission Council, Rev. Dr. Yvette Noble Bloomfield, spoke about the implications of the Child Protection Policy. She urged all volunteers in the Council to complete the Child Protection Policy Training and the Darkness to Light Training; this training equips volunteers with skills for handling children and sexual abuse.
Rev Dr Noble stated, “In the Cayman Islands and within our church, volunteers of any children’s ministry with children ages 0 – 18 years, must do the Child Protection Policy Workshop by the end of September. At our last training we had 34 people, today we have over 60 people here. This speaks volumes about our church and how many people want to volunteer in our church.”
The Child Protection Policy of the United Church takes into account the need for directives surrounding the general safety and care-giving of children, including physical and interpersonal conduct, the policy applies within the church compounds, Congregations and church-related activities such as church services, Sunday school, summer camps and church excursions.
Informed by increasing reports of cases of human trafficking and various forms of child physical, verbal and sexual exploitation in Jamaica and Cayman, the policy is also designed to be in accordance with Jamaica’s Child Care Protection Act (2007), the Children Law (2012, revised) of the Cayman Islands, as well as national and regional policies on Child Protection in both jurisdictions.
The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Synod’s statement sums up the theological underpinning of the child protection policy:
“God intends for all life, freedom from abuse and injustice. God created all human beings in God’s image and desires for them mutual respect, care, protection and empowerment.”