The child and family welfare policy was promulgated in November 2014 which seeks to establish a well structured and coordinated child and family welfare system of children, prevents abuse and protect children from harm. It is guided by national and internationally recognized principles as well as values, beliefs, and practices. Although this policy is a good one; it is not a sacrosanct document which glaringly calls for some review.
The child and family welfare policy seeks to herald the traditional system where some issues are settled informally by the family which normally is to protect the integrity of the family. However, in order to avoid the resurgence of certain illicit acts of perpetrators and also to protect the interest of the child, the policy must be certain on victim-mediating offences as well the non-mediating offences. This means that the policy must be clear on what offences can be addressed by the family, elders or the traditional chiefs and also offences that cannot be dealt by such authorities but only through the formal sector such as court and the police . The victim -mediating offences should be those offences that are minor and can easily be corrected through education , consultation and easy settlement of disputes between the child and the accused or parent. The main aim is to protect the interest of the child and the parent at the same time. For instance, when a parent neglect their duty to provide the basic necessaries of life to their child such sordid act can be remedied through education or counselling of such parent to unfurl the need about their duty to protect their child. Although the neglect of such duty by the parent is a criminal offence under the criminal offences Act 29, the interest at this time would not be to arrest such parent immediately for such neglect of duty but would be focused on the welfare of the child since such services from the parent would be needed by the child. However, where the neglect of such duty is quotidian after such parent had been advice or educated, that action would then elicit the services of the formal sector such as court to make an order for the protection of the child through adoption or any other plausible means and if necessary the arrest of such parent .
Again, the non- mediating offences should be considered to be the offences of serious nature that cannot be mediated by the family or informal sector due to the propensity of its reoccurrence, its blatant effect and the emotional and psychological effect on the child. These offences are clearly offences against the state and even if the family are ennui to pursue the case, the state has a duty to bring such culprits to book for such offence committed to serve as deterrence to others and also protect the welfare of the child.
In addition, clearly listing the victim mediating and non mediating offences in the child and family welfare policy would consolidate the purpose and objectives of the policy as it seeks to empower the children and young people. Certainty of the offences that can be mediated and non-mediation offences would edify the children and the community on the offences to report to the police or the formal sector should such offences occur. In accordance with Children Act 560, section 17 states that any person with information on child abuse; or a child in need of care and protection shall report to the Department of social welfare . If the policy is not clear on offences that can be mediated and otherwise, denizens in community would be oblivious about what actions to report to department since there may perceive some acts of an ordinary person or family member to be trivial and can easily be resolved with the informal or traditional system which may not be necessarily so. In order to consolidate the policy, the children Act 560 can also clearly limn all the victim mediating and non- mediating offences to ensure certainty of the law which makes it more enforceable than the policy which serves as a guideline.
Lastly, clearly listing the victim mediating and non mediating offences would unpack the diverse roles of family , traditional chiefs and queen mothers. This would certainly make it lucid the issues that can and cannot be addressed by such key players in the society. With this, the duty of the Department of the Social welfare would be easy as such key players can facilely cooperate with the Department and the formal sector such as police in the event that an issue before them is not within their remit . Again, clearly defining the mediating and non mediating offences would preclude the child panels from usurping the powers of the court which can be easily done without such certainty. In accordance with Section 28 of Act 560, a child panel shall have non -judicial functions to mediate in criminal and civil matters which concern a child and also in accordance with section 32 of Act 560, a child panel shall assist in victim -offender mediation in minor criminal matters. Pellucidly, if the policy is not clear on what offences can be mediated and those that cannot be mediated the child panel may exercise some authority over an issue which can only be exercised by the courts since the children Act 560 is silent on what constitutes minor criminal matters. As already stated above, the Children Act 560, can also clearly define and list the victim mediating and non mediation offences as well as defining what minor offences means giving the child panel more insight on the offences to mediate on . Therefore some of the victim mediation offences can be
- Parental neglect of duty
- Child abandonment and child exposure to danger
- Physical assault[excessive beating not reasonable.]
Where as some of the of non- mediation offences can be
- Indecent assault
- Unnatural carnal knowledge.
In conclusions, although these recommendation may not be a panacea to the problems beset by children ,albeit it would create certainty of the law and go a long way to empower the children to protect themselves; know their rights and fight for it.
BY: Silas Osei Boateng