Working in limbo
Caregivers in some of the country's children's homes are beyond frustrated that the terms of their employment with the Child Development Agency (CDA) are yet to be formalised more than 10 years after they were moved from the Child Services Division (CSD).
The Child Support Unit, the Child Services Division, and the Adoption Division were merged in 2004 to form the CDA under the purview of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, but an ongoing reclassification exercise has left close to 200 residential care workers uncertain about their fate with the agency.
One caregiver told The Sunday Gleaner that they are continually told they are not employed to the CDA whenever they try to access discounts and other benefits as public-sector workers.
"Even though we work for the public sector, there is no benefit that we can obtain from the public sector because our pay stub says CDA, but the rules and regulations still govern from Child Services. So there is nothing that we can get from the public sector. No car loan, no educational loan, nothing at all," said the caregiver who asked not to be named.
The caregiver, who has been in the field for several years, said given the challenges residential workers experience on the job and their low wages, the uncertainty surrounding their employment status has weakened the resolve of many to remain committed to the job for the sake of the children.
"Honestly, it is so unbearable. For you to do your job, you have to love your job to be there. We have children who are mentally disabled; we have children who are physically disabled and we have children who are so uncontrollable, that sometimes if you speak, they fight you," she said.
Executive director of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, confirmed that efforts are now being made to get the positions in the residential sector structured. According to Gage-Grey, this process of reclassification is being done by the Ministry of Finance and will have to be completed before the workers can be fully transferred to the CDA.
"They are employed to the Government of Jamaica, so they are employed under the same terms and conditions of employment as they were under the Child Services Division until they are transferred to the structure of the CDA.
"As you know, the CDA is an executive agency while the CSD was under central government," she said, while pointing out that her organisation has been having dialogue with the affected workers and their unions.
But the caregiver who spoke to The Sunday Gleaner said she and her colleagues are tired of talking. "They just say, we know your concerns and we are trying our best. I love my job. I love working with children. But honestly, my co-workers, quite a few of them, will be leaving.
At least that's what they are
saying," she added.