Mon | Sep 23, 2019

‘Our children are hurting in this country’ - Boys’ home director calls for special facility to nurture young ones not fit for foster care

Published:Saturday | July 20, 2019 | 12:06 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
From left: Child Protection and Family Services Agency CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey, Junior Youth Minister Alando Terrelonge, Jamaicans for Justice Executive Director Rodje Malcolm, and Walter Bernyck, counsellor and head of development cooperation, High Commission of Canada, in conversation at a Jamaicans for Justice child-protection seminar and booklet launch at The UWI Regional Headquarters on Thursday.
From left: Child Protection and Family Services Agency CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey, Junior Youth Minister Alando Terrelonge, Jamaicans for Justice Executive Director Rodje Malcolm, and Walter Bernyck, counsellor and head of development cooperation, High Commission of Canada, in conversation at a Jamaicans for Justice child-protection seminar and booklet launch at The UWI Regional Headquarters on Thursday.

Patrick Newman, director at the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Walderston, Manchester, says Jamaica needs some special facilities for children who are not candidates for foster care in order to nurture them in a loving environment.

Newman made the call on Thursday during a Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) child-protection seminar and booklet launch held at The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in Mona.

“ ... We know that not all the children who are in children’s homes should be there. I tell my boys that the best place for you is with your mother and father, in a loving and caring environment. That is the best place for children, but there are some children in foster care [who] are not good candidates for foster care,” he said.

“I have some who have gone through several foster placements and end up back in a children’s home. One of the wickedest things that we could do to children is just push them and push them and keep pushing them away. We need some special places for these children who are not candidates for foster care so that we can have people working with them. Listen to me! Our children are hurting in this country, enuh, and especially our boys,” Newman added.

The JFJ said that its Child Protection Laws pocket guide for educators and childcare professionals, which it launched at the event, would be available in all institutions and childcare facilities soon.

STAFF NEEDS TRAINING

However, Newman urged the human rights group to do more than just distribute the books.

“It’s good and well to have good intentions, but when pickney start give trouble, a one different kind of story,” he said. “You ever see some people that when you go in a dem car the Bible open, but them don’t know what in the Bible? I am asking JFJ not only to hand out this book, but to find a way to come into the home and train the staff because dem will get the book and dem don’t look in dem.”

Newman also lamented that some children in state care were being neglected by their parents.

“I have been in this system [for a] long, long time. I have been at Mount Olivet Boys’ Home for three years, and since I down there, is four fathers ever come there come visit a boy. Four! Dem nuh come. So my brother, me a ask [that we] do everything in our powers to help our children or we going to suffer,” Newman said.

Sean Major-Campbell, lay magistrate and director at JFJ, also added his voice to the call to improve the level of care for children in state facilities.

“Some of the agents tasked to care for our children are failing our children,” he said.

Child Protection and Family Services Agency CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey, in her presentation, said that her agency’s guiding principle was to do whatever is in the best interest of the children.

“These actions, we believe, should include good governance practices. The impact we want is that the well-being of Jamaica’s children is facilitated, and in supporting those in need of care and protection, we want to ensure that each child in the country [who] comes [through our] system can leave feeling that they have achieved and that their well-being is secure,” Gage-Grey said.

“Although we have made significant improvements to a lot of these facilities, we don’t believe it’s the ideal place, not necessarily because of the physical facility, but just the fact that a child needs a loving family, and we are positioning that as our strategic direction that children belong in families, and all our efforts are to keep them there,” she added.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com