Caregivers to the rescue! - RuFamSo head bats for social initiative programme to reduce crime
Executive Director of the Rural Family Support Organisation (RuFamSo), Utealia Burrell, is batting for the resumption of the Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP), a social initiative, which she is confident can help curb the country's crime problem.
"We believe that RCP is a model which, if used correctly, can assist in the reduction of crime," said Burrell during a recent joint presentation with Eda Golding, parent educator at RuFamSo.
"Statistics indicate that the perpetrators of crime and violence are mainly young men and boys who did not benefit from love and care," argued Burrell, as she touted the positives of the social initiative.
The RCP started in 1992, in Clarendon. It was part of the Teenage Mothers Project (TMP), which operated under the auspices of the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the Centre for Early Childhood Education, at the University of the West Indies.
The TMP later evolved into RuFamSo, a registered non-governmental entity. The programme operated for some 23 years; however, due to lack of funding it declined.
"The RCP's long-term strategy was initially designed to aid the development of children from birth to three years old, in depressed communities," said Burrell.
It targeted the early years, a period recognised by researchers as a critical window of opportunity to create or lay a solid foundation to develop cognitive and socio-emotional skills," added Burrell, as said argued that many of the young boys and men involved in crime are from poor female-headed households, who are hungry, were abused and have suffered.
She added that if children are embraced in nurturing and caring environments, they will grow to love themselves and others; as well as learning to resolve conflicts amicably.
"Therefore, the RCP targets vulnerable children and their parents, to assist them to recognise and capitalise on this window of opportunity.
"With the passage of the new 'Zones of Special Operations' legislation, the RCP should be an important strategy infused to support children and their families. The time is right to create a new generation who understand and care about our country," declared Burrell.
The RuFamSo executive director noted that the JN Foundation funded the programme for three years but after that period they were not able to continue.
She further argued that the programme was a good model, which was replicated in several Caribbean states, such as Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, and Suriname.
Burrell pointed to a Longitudinal Study, measuring the impact of the programme on parents who participated, and said this found that there was greater practical awareness of the value of good parenting practices in the formative years of childhood; improvements in hygiene, sanitation and nutrition practices; as well as changes in disciplinary methods, especially corporal punishment.
"Consequently, there were positive effects on the cognitive development of children between six and 18 months old, especially in fine motor skills and visual reception," said Burrell.
"A programme of this nature needs to continue in Jamaica," added Burrell, but she pointed out that it would need to be adequately funded.