Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Editorial: Focusing on state wards

Published:Saturday | November 28, 2015 | 11:00 AM

It is heartening to hear of positive developments in the interest of children who are being cared for by the State. Finally, it seems an integrated approach is being adopted to modernise childcare services by tackling their educational, health and personal development.

The State has consistently failed these so-called wards that have been placed in its care. Our history is replete with examples of abuse, lack of protection and the insecurities that beset many of these children in institutions. However, news of moves to establish an enabling environment for those about to exit the system is welcome. It's an investment even a poor country such as ours must make if these children are to be given any hope of a bright future.

We also applaud the announcement that more children in state-care institutions are pursuing tertiary-level studies. Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna announced recently that for the period 2013-2014, 48 of these children were undertaking studies at the tertiary level compared to only two in 2012. According to the Child Development Agency, many of these children are beneficiaries of private donations and scholarships. This, too, is a commendable investment in the nation's future.

 

TRAINING

 

Then there is more good news with the breaking of ground for the first transitional living facility for girls who have reached the mandatory 18 years and are about to be placed on their own. During a three-year period, these girls will be given the requisite tools and vocational training through HEART/NTA to equip them for independent living, long term. This is a

critical time in their development when they need a significant measure of emotional and practical

support.

The obvious question is this: What about the boys? There are plans in the works to build a similar facility in St Elizabeth for the boys who have reached the age of 18. Any casual observer who uses the streets of Kingston would likely agree that there are too many boys on the streets hustling their way into adulthood. They, too, need to be rescued from a life of deprivation and their woeful existence.

For Minister Hanna and the child-service agencies, the challenge will always be how to build meaningful partnerships that will accelerate this momentum and protect these small gains. Small, we say, because we are patently aware that significant improvement is required at all the institutions that provide care for at-risk children. This includes upgrading the physical plants to investing in training of the individuals who oversee these facilities.

Sadly, despite these positive developments, violence directed at the nation's children is on the rise. Just-released statistics by the police indicate that for this year, so far, more than 1,000 persons have been murdered, including children.

The statistics are enough to alert us to the fact that protecting our children from violence, whether in the home, at school, or on the streets, is still not given urgent attention. One of the obvious consequences of violence against children is that it results in the shredding of the very fabric of society.