Fostering hope - JFJ wants action as Government announces plan to make life easier for children in foster care
Human Rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is holding on to the hope that the latest announcement of plans to review the Government's support for foster parents will come to fruition.
"While public announcements are easy to make, only their meaningful implementation will improve outcomes for children in state care. Any review must take significant steps - not cosmetic gestures," JFJ said in a release late last week.
"Children are critical to sustainable development. They are as deserving of financial support as are other areas of governance," added JFJ as it reacted to the announcement from state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green.
Making his contribution to the 2016-17 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, Green said the ministry is hoping to go to Cabinet this year in relation to increasing the monetary support for foster parents.
JFJ noted that foster families receive $4,000 per month for each child, despite requests made by multiple stakeholders since 2008 to increase this subvention.
The lobby group pointed to a study done by the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA), which found that it would take $10,416 per month to provide basic, decent care to a foster child.
JFJ also noted that the OCA recommended an increase in the subvention for the second time in 2011 and this was not granted. That same year, the Government allocated $3 million to the purchase of motor vehicles for ministers and other officials.
"We call on Cabinet to apply similar logic to the children under its care, who must be a budgetary priority," said JFJ, as it noted that between 2011 and 2015, there were 2,062 children living in children's homes and places of safety.
"JFJ research shows that children in residential facilities face greater risks to their development than children in family environments," the lobby group claimed.
FOSTER CARE ENVIRONMENTS
Apart from increasing the subvention, the JFJ has called on the Government to bolster the monitoring and oversight of foster-care environments; increase the subvention provided to private children's homes; complete the review of the Child Care and Protection Act (2004) and complete the review of the Children (Adoption of) Act (1958) to remove the obstacles to adoption.
President of the Kingston and St Andrew Foster Parents Association, Shari Tomlinson, also agrees that there is an urgent need for an increase in the subvention. She argued that those who foster children today do so because they genuinely care about the well-being of the nation's children.
"There is nothing to gain from doing it. When I say nothing, I mean nothing other than the satisfaction of impacting a life positively," Tomlinson told The Sunday Gleaner.
She said being a foster parent can be challenging because apart from not having sufficient financial resources to do so, wards of state coming from children's home need help to deal with the trauma they would have experienced.
"There is no child who comes through the system who isn't traumatised. There is none whatsoever. Every single one of them suffers from some form of trauma or the other. Just to be uprooted from what is familiar is a trauma. All of them, barring none, come with challenges," argued Tomlinson.