Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Hanna promises to revamp foster care system

Published:Monday | May 11, 2015 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Shari Tomlinson, president, Kingston and St Andrew Foster Parents Association.
Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna .
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Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna has assured that there will be a revamping of Jamaica's foster-care programme in order to maximise on its success in assisting wards of the state.

"We want more families in Jamaica to take children, so if it means putting more subventions that way as part of our budget to really bolster the system, then we are prepared to do it," the minister told editors and reporters during a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Friday at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston office.

Hanna said that despite claiming the least of the ministry's resources, the foster-care programme has yielded very good results. As such, a special committee has been established to look at how to get more persons to start fostering children.

"We are finding that children do a lot better when they are with families. The ones who are in our children's homes who don't have the mothers to come and look for them or the fathers, they act out in ways that the psychologist [can] tell you about," she said.

The ministry has been challenged in recent times to attract parents to the foster-care programme. Currently, there are over 800 foster parents in the country, but with more than 5,000 children in state care, there is an urgent need for more.

"Typically, what we find is that those children who do well... it's not only because of the intervention programmes that we put in place, but because they had mentoring, where either a family member or someone came in and really spend time with them, love them and even sometimes took them into their homes on a weekend," Hanna said.

NOT ENOUGH SUPPORT

President of the Kingston and St Andrew Foster Parents Association, Shari Tomlinson, believes the $4,000 monthly stipend given to care for each foster child is a deterrent to persons who are considering fostering a child. She and other members of her group believe the stipend should be increased to $10,000 monthly.

"It is in light of the country's economic climate why we have to ensure that our children are given the resources to succeed. There seems to be no shortage of funds, or funds are found to do what is important to our ministers. It really is just a matter of priority," she told The Gleaner earlier this year.

"The national minimum wage established by the Government provides for each worker a sum of at least $4,600 per week, which is $18,400 monthly. In a survey of our parents, we found that the average daily cost of providing adequate food and transportation for a child amounted to $1,200, which is approximately $36,000 per month," she said.

Hanna did not say whether the monthly stipends would be increased, but she has assured that the ministry intends to give more focus to all of the elements of the programme.

"So we have a committee now looking at all of the elements that will be necessary to do it," Hanna said.