Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Some schools skeptical about accepting children in state care

Published:Friday | May 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Professor Henk Parmentier (second left), a representative of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), greets, from left, Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of Hear The Children's Cry; Patricia McKenzie-Thomas, director, One Step Forward Consultancy, a UK-based social work company; Anusha Anthony, vice consul for Jamaica and The Bahamas at the British High Commission; and Carla Francis-Edie, social development consultant. They were attending the International Safeguarding Children conference held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on Thursday.

Serious concerns are being raised about the level of discrimination that some school administrators display towards children who are wards of the State.

The issue was raised by Audrey Budhi, director of children and family programmes at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, who highlighted the incidents of bullying that children continued to face. This was in addition to challenges that the agency encountered when it interacted with some schools.

"Bullied children are seen as different children. They are loners, they are shy. They come from sheltered homes, or they are living with disability," Budhi said as she addressed the International Safeguarding Children conference, which was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, yesterday.

"What we found out is that when our children come from a children's home, a place of safety, or any other vulnerable community, they are identified and singled out, even by some school administrators. They don't want to take them. Our officers have to be going to these places repeatedly, begging and trying to befriend them. That cannot be," Budhi declared.

The director added, "Even among ourselves (adults), we who should be protecting these children, they are being pushed away. As a result, they (children) become shy and they can't negotiate for themselves."

State minister in the youth ministry Floyd Green echoed similar sentiments, stating that the Government was working to create more platforms from which children could express their concerns. He noted that discussions he had been having thus far with children islandwide point to serious issues of discrimination, particularly when wards of the State seek employment.

"They (children in state care) said, 'Quite frankly, minister, one of the problems that we have is that when we leave state care and we try to find employment, and the prospective employer looks on our rÈsumÈ and sees that we would have spent time in a home, quite quickly, the interview changes,' " Green explained.

"It (interview) takes a different tone, and quite often, they are treated as if they are trouble-makers who have come to seek employment just to give trouble. They raised the level of discrimination that they face in the society," Green reported.