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Grandparents cannot cope - Frustrated guardians of 'barrel children' want to hand over responsibility to CDA

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna

The Child Development Agency (CDA) has been flooded in recent times with calls from grandparents of 'barrel children' who are pleading for the State to remove them from their care.

"Right now, there is a new phenomenon, because all the grandparents are now calling the CDA to say, 'Look, we can't manage them, come and take them from us, because our children left them with us and we just can't manage anymore'." Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna revealed as she addressed journalists at a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last Friday at the company's Kingston offices.

'Barrel children' are children who have been left behind or abandoned by parents who have gone off to live or work in another country in order to secure a better life. These children are often left in the care of other relatives with the assurance that their parents will come back to get them as soon as they are financially able.

"Where the child has an expectation that he is going to be with the parent, you cannot imagine what the grandparents go through here," Hanna said.

The minister said some of these children who have been left behind usually display a high level of anger because their parents have reneged on their promise to come back for them.

Chief executive officer of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, noted that some of these children become uncontrollable, and when the grandparents are unable to cope, they call the agency.

"I remember one called last week and she said, 'If you don't come, I am going to kill him, because I am done'," Gage-Grey said.

"What they are doing now is to say, 'Take them, I am not going to go to prison for them'," she added.

The law currently allows for parents who cannot manage their children to turn them over to the State.

"Daily, we have to be talking down parents to say, 'Give them another chance, let us work with you'," said Gage-Grey, who believes it is important that biological parents maintain a bond with their children.

The CDA tries to divert children from state care with the help of it's Children and Family Support Unit, which was established to strengthen the capacity of families to care for vulnerable children.

Counseling is generally done with parents and children, and efforts are made to address other issues affecting the family structure.