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Worrying trend as Cases of child neglect rises

Kajiado County Coordinator of Children’s Services Samuel Masese has decried the rising cases of child neglect in the county.

Masese revealed that out of 3000 cases reported to his office this year, 90 percent of the cases involved child neglect.

Speaking in Kajiado town during a stakeholder’s sensitization forum on the Children’s Act 2022, the officer revealed that the number of children abandoned by their parents and guardians increased especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that children were left with aged grandparents or alone and thus ended up dropping out of school as their parents migrated to towns in search of employment.

“Cases of child neglect and abandonment are very common in Kajiado. Out of 3000 cases reported to our offices this year, 90 percent involve children who have been abandoned by their parents,” he said.

Masese called on parents and guardians to exercise their parental responsibility adding that it was against the law to neglect their children as they are entitled to basic needs.

He added that the new Children Act 2022 ensures that children are fully protected from neglect, abuse, child labor among others.

“The Children Act 2022 is a big win for children in Kenya as it ensures they are fully protected by law. It is an improvement from the Children Act 2001,” said Masese.

Clause 142 of the law defines a child in need of care and protection as one who lives in difficult circumstances and needs to be protected from all kinds of abuse and neglect.

It also defines a child living on or off the streets as one to be protected by the new law.

In addition, children with disabilities will now be accorded medical treatment, special care, education and training free of charge.

The new Children Act provides for parental responsibility and contains progressive provisions for the protection and care of children such as prioritization of family-based care through fostering, adoption, custody, maintenance, guardianship, and kinship care

Kinship adoption has been included in the law where a relative is able to adopt a child in his lineage.

Under this concept, relatives wishing to adopt children related to them will be able to do it in a much cheaper, faster way that is devoid of legal technicalities.

The law also recognizes “Kafaalah”, the taking in of a child who is deprived of parental or family care and protection by a person professing the Islamic faith who is capable of looking after a child in accordance with this Act.

Priority is also given to family-based alternative care as opposed to the institutionalization of children in Children’s Homes.

Among other notable changes addressed by the new Act is raising the criminal responsibility age from the previous 8 years to 12 years.

“A person under the age of twelve years shall not be criminally responsible for any act or omission and a child who commits an offense while under the age of fourteen years shall be presumed not to be capable of differentiating between right and wrong unless the Court is satisfied on evidence to the contrary,” states Clause 221 of the law.

A child under the age of 16 years who is a complainant, in any case, must have legal representation charged from the Legal Aid fund.

Children in Conflict with the law after committing minor offenses will not be taken through the court system; they will be diverted to community-based systems and have access to free legal aid as they navigate through the justice system.

If a child is the alleged perpetrator of an offense, they are granted legal representation at the expense of the state.

The Constitution provides that children who are detained be held separately from adults. The new changes now require that male, female, and intersex children be held separately.

Further, the law largely shifts the burden of child care to the state and the community, leaving room for the establishment of statutory childcare institutions by the Cabinet Secretary responsible for children affairs.

Another big score for children is the establishment of a Child Welfare Fund to cater to the needs of children in distress.

Clause 56 provides that Parliament shall provide appropriate funds for the National Council for Children Services. Other sources of funding for the council include grants, gifts, donations, or other endowments given to the Council.

By Rop Janet

 

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