Wed | May 24, 2017

Aging state wards to get transitional home

Published:Monday | May 11, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna has announced that plans are in place for the construction of a transitional home for wards of the State, who have to leave state homes at age 18 but have nowhere else to go.

"We received about US$1.2 million from the USAID, and we are currently working with the University of the West Indies to build that transitional home for about 40 girls," asserted Hanna as she refuted claims that former wards of the State are turned out the instant they become adults.

"In the interim, there are transitional programmes in place that cater to their educational and mental well-being."

The minister, who was addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street offices in Kingston, was supported by Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Development Agency, who said those programmes catered for the needs of wards throughout their educational life at state homes, taking them up to tertiary education.

"The support we give is to provide access to skills training and to tertiary education for those who can matriculate. As (Hanna) said, we have started to track the students from GSAT, through to CSEC, and up to tertiary institutions for those who can matriculate."

In February last year, The Sunday Gleaner reported the case of Amanda who said she was forced to live in the St William Grant Park in Kingston after being told she could no longer stay at the Maxfield Park Children's Home because she had turned 18.

NOWHERE TO GO

However, workers of the poor relief department of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation told The Gleaner that Amanda's case was not isolated as numerous young persons had turned up at the Marie Atkins Shelter on Hanover Street saying they had been turned out of state homes and had nowhere else to go.

"They turn up here all the time and tell us that all they were given was bus fare and their clothes and told they could no longer stay at the children's homes, where a majority had spent most of their lives," an individual affiliated with the shelter said, claiming the facility sees as many as 12 former wards of the State per quarter, who say they have been put out since they turned 18.

"There is one guy here now who is just learning to cut hair and has got a job, but when he came here, he could barely spell his name."

Gage-Grey, however, dismissed those charges, arguing that the CDA is intrinsically involved in ensuring that wards of the State are prepared for life after state care.

"We provide a lot of support for wards of the State. In the area of skills, we now have a partnership with HEART Trust and, up to last year, we were able to get about 40 of them into that programme," she said.

"It's absolutely not true to say we just put them out on the street, because we also try to reintegrate a lot of these children with their families before they even get to that age."

tyrone.thompson@gleanerjm.com