Hear the children's cry, SVL, help reunite missing kids with family
Founder of Hear The Children's Cry (HTCC) Betty-Ann Blaine has heralded the achievements of the recently established Missing Children's Family and Community Social Work Programme. The programme is an off-shoot of the child rights advocacy group and was established through a $4.2-million donation from Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) in June of this year.
After just five months of operation, Ms Blaine says the programme is already bearing fruit, with seven children successfully reintegrated into their homes.
Blaine made the announcement at a recently held Parent-Teacher Association meeting at the Holy Family Primary School in downtown Kingston.
Through the social work programme, HTCC contracts social workers who visit the homes of missing children. Ms Blaine said that on average, more than 100 children go missing every month and just as many families struggle to cope with the crisis.
"The home visits enable us to go beyond the telephone interviews we have been conducting for 10 years now, to meet the children and their parents face-to-face, in their own homes and communities. Doing the home visits gives us a first-hand view of the actual situations affecting the children," she said.
Maxine Taylor-Cooper, a social worker-counsellor with HTCC, addressed the assembled parents, giving details behind the seven successful interventions under the programme.
"Since we commenced our home-community intervention, seven children have returned to their residences. In one case in which the child was still missing, our social workers encouraged the mother to send text messages saying "I love you" and "I want you to come back home", instead of the harsh and threatening ones the mother had been sending. It worked. That particular child has returned home," said Mrs Taylor-Cooper.
"We were able to speak not only with the parents, but all relatives in the vicinity that could have an impact on the children. Our team also gave tips on behaviour modification techniques, coping skills and positive communication so we can change the way they relate to each other," she continued.
While reporting on the warm welcome the social workers receive from the families of the missing children, Ms Blaine opined that some significant challenges remain.
"Some of the living conditions of the children are significantly less than desirable. The home visits have reinforced what we believe and have been signalling for a long time - that family life needs to be fixed in order to stop the epidemic of missing children," she said.
For its part, Supreme Ventures says it is pleased with the impact the programme has had so far in such a short time.
Corporate communications officer at SVL, Stephanie Todd, who also addressed the gathering, says SVL stands ready and willing to support projects that safeguard the health and safety of the nation's children.
"When Ms Blaine approached SVL, we were beyond grateful for the opportunity to assist and help cover this gap in the system. Parents need to know what to do while they wait for their children to come home and how to handle the situation when they do. We are happy with the progress this partnership is making and remain open to other opportunities for collaboration," she said.
Parents at the function were given instructional material on how to build a happy home environment to prevent their children from running away and what to do when the children return.