Grading Jamaica’s Child Care Sector
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way it treats its children. As The Gleaner continues its series on grading Jamaica's infrastructure, attention is turned to the social facilities of the country and insight into the true state of the nation. To this end, sector interests have assessed whether the nation has been giving its children the best treatment possible.
SWOT analysis of Jamaica's childcare sector
Strengths: Government aims to further reduce the number of children in state care.
Weaknesses: Under-resourced and fragmented childcare sector; poor coordination among entities with responsibility for children.
Opportunities: Increase and improve foster-care system; strengthen parenting support.
Threats: Shortage of human and financial resources for the childcare sector.
Strengths: The staff at these homes care about the children they look after; that is a definite strength. However, they lack the skills and training to effectively understand and deal with these children.
Weaknesses: None of the staff in these facilities are properly trained to work with, identify or proactively assist with all the emotional/behavioural disorders/ hidden disabilities that these children have.
Opportunities: CDA has been given numerous opportunities for competitive rates to at least give basic training to current institution staff by professionals such as myself, but cries about insufficient funding.
Threats: Many of these homes are hiding, oblivious to the inherent sexual and physical abuse of the children from the employees (especially the groundsmen, janitors or males loitering outside). These children are constantly under threat from others and themselves.
Acting practicum coordinator,
Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work
University of the West Indies
Strengths: Since ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, there has been increased responsiveness to national childcare by way of the legislative and institutional frameworks.
Weaknesses: Under-resourcing of (human and material) resources of these institutions, as well as the court system, to deal expeditiously and with sufficient sensitivity to child well-being. Fewer than 50 per cent of children that have been assessed to be in need of mental-health interventions do not receive it for the duration of time that their symptoms indicate.
Opportunities: Use of data from the OCA, CDA, OCR, child guidance clinics and Ministry of Education to better inform policy and the development of a set of national child well-being guidelines that are data-informed. Enhance use of primary health care; reintroduce visiting school nurses and dental hygienists. Validate training curricula for early childhood care providers and those serving children in the primary to early high-school years.
Threats: Socio-economic costs to population health and national development if child well-being needs are not more appropriately addressed for the short to long term.
Dr Elizabeth Ward,
Violence Prevention Alliance
Strengths: We are in touch with our children through widespread programmes (universal primary education and immunisation).
Weaknesses: Consumerism is accelerating the breakdown of families. This is made worse as we face greater fiscal constraints which result in further splintering of our child-care services.
Opportunities: The recent tragedy in our health system shows that we all have to do more to protect our children.
Threats: The increase in the level of crime means increased exposure of our children to violence, resulting complex trauma, leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Children are often labelled a "bad pickney" and from there they slide down a slippery slope: failure in school, involvement in crime and incarceration in our juvenile detention centres.
Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan,
Early Childhood Commission
Strengths: An impressive number of policies, laws and institutions to support the rights of young children, most developed since 2000 (CDA, OCA, OCR, ECC).
Weaknesses: Limited human resources (management and technical staff) and financial resources to allow effective and efficient implementation of policies, laws and operation of institutions.
Opportunities: High levels of public engagement in all aspects of young children's welfare.
Threats: Politicisation of young children's welfare.
Child Development Agency
Strengths: The childcare sector is strong when it comes to the mindset of the general public to see these children as in need and will donate material things to homes.
Weaknesses: Weaknesses are rampant; we get kids off the street who have not gone to school in a while and are lost when placed at age/grade level.
Opportunities: Opportunity is there to make every child who exits government or private care a trained certified person in the skill areas.
Threats: Threats come in the form of just a burdened system, with very little money reaching the clients themselves - the children. The Capital A and B budgets are laden with funds tied up in salaries, facilities, etc.
Jamaican youth ambassador
Strengths: Recent legislative amendments to critical laws directly relevant to the protection and safety of our children such as the Child Care and Protection Act have created a framework to potentially make significant inroads in stemming child abuse and neglect.
Weaknesses: There still exist major challenges with incarcerating and rehabilitating those who threaten the safety of our children.
Opportunities: Perhaps a more strategic allocation of resources where the financial output would lead to a more beneficial outcome to our youth.
Threats: The consequences of the structural adjustment programme and the temptation to cut spending on so-called 'non-productive' sectors so as to pass tests given by the multilateral at the expense of the well-being of our children and wider citizenry.