Home where they belong - Father reunites with girls in state care
His two baby girls were just seven and four years old when they were placed in state care, but the heartbreaking experience of temporarily losing his children was what helped to reinforce for Evon Pollack the value of being a parent.
Both girls were placed in a home after he and their mother called it quits. This meant Pollack had to travel from Kingston to Montego Bay, St James, every two weeks to visit his children, who lived for a while at the Robin's Nest Children's Home before they were eventually placed with a foster parent in Westmoreland.
"I just feel that little one-day joy, there and it would keep me for all a week or two weeks until I am ready to see them again," he recalled of his visits.
But the father grew very tired of experiencing just "a one-day joy", and this pushed him to make the necessary arrangements to have his children back home with him.
"I rather to be the one to have my youths them around me to give them that fatherly love, and to give them the love that me never get from my father, because I grew without a father, just my mother alone, and that traumatised me; so I imagined what it would do to them, and they are girls," he shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
After meeting the various requirements by the Child Development Agency (CDA), Pollack was finally reunited with his daughters.
Today, he and his girls are inseparable, despite the struggles of providing for their every need and making sure they adopt positive values and attitude. He is not alone, however, as he gets help from the children's paternal and maternal grandmothers and their mother, who still maintains communication with them from overseas.
"The greatest challenge is financial. To give them lunch money to go school is a major role. You have to try to make sure that that is there every day because you don't want them to stop from school," he said.
"For me, anywhere I have to get the little lunch money for them I have to get it. Sometimes I go and do little painting for somebody, bore two wall and hang up two picture frame, any little thing, even to cut yard sometimes," said the father, who laments the fact that a number of Jamaican children have been neglected by their dads.
Care and guidance
Pollack is among several parents who have been reunited with their children in state care, as the Government moves to reintegrate more of these children with family members. Up to December of last year, there were 4,384 children in the care of the State, with the largest proportion of these children being in children's homes.
In an effort to ensure that these parents are equipped to carry out their roles, the CDA has been hosting several workshops and seminars to help them build their capacity to provide love, care and guidance. The most recent seminar was held at the Alpha Institute on South Camp Road in Kingston.
Director of Children and Family Programmes at the CDA Audrey Budhi noted during the event that improper parenting has resulted in high levels of abuse and neglect of children in the society.
"Over the years, we have placed emphasis on good parenting because our aim is to equip parents with additional child-rearing skills to cope with their children. These sessions aim to prepare parents and caregivers on what to expect when their children are returned to them," she said.
CDA's Mobile Mental Health Unit psychologist, Sophia Brown, pointed to the fact that based on assessments over the years, several children in state care grapple with issues such as learning disorders, depression, suicide ideation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Fortunately, Pollack's two daughters were not scarred by their experience in state care. The older of the two, who is now preparing to do her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations at a traditional high school in Kingston, said her time spent at the children's home and later in foster care was actually positive.
"Sometimes when I look back at it, I think it probably shaped me into who I am now; you know, in terms of how I speak and how I get along with others, because I have good communication skills," said the 16-year-old who wants to become a neurosurgeon or a cardiologist.
Despite raising them in a tough inner-city community where it is easy to lose focus, Pollack said they have both remained steadfast and determined.
"They make me proud, just to know that I am their father and they hold their heads up. As school over, it's home and I don't have to tell them a lot of these things," he said.
"I hope the best for them to become what they desire. Anything them decide is good for me. I just want to make sure they make the right decision."
With November being Parent Month, the proud father is encouraging parents to invest in their children instead of the "glitz and glamour", which are temporary.
"My main advice for parents is just to be there for their child, no matter what, and to give them the proper guidance and protection that they need, because I am telling you, it's not want they want it, they need it," advised Pollack.