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Holness suggests gov't increase support to Alpha Boys' Home

Published:Sunday | April 20, 2014 | 12:52 PM

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has called for Government to increase funding and psycho-social support to the Alpha Boy's Home in Kingston, instead of closing the facility.



Earlier this month, Minister of Youth Lisa Hanna said the institution would close its residential facilities in June after more than 135 years. She said the institution would be transformed into a full time day school, while maintaining residential services at St John Bosco Boys' Home in Mandeville.



Hanna had noted that in February that the Sisters of Mercy met with her and the Child Development Agency on several occasions, and indicated their unwillingness to continue to operate the institution in its current form. According to the youth minister, the Sisters of Mercy cited among their reasons grave anti-social behaviour among the boys in care.



However, Holness says although the concerns about anti-social and predatory behaviour among the wards are real and should not be covered up, more could be done if adequate resources were provided. He says his understanding of the situation is that the Sisters of Mercy were severely limited by the lack of funding received.



He says the Opposition would be prepared to support a special subvention for the Alpha Boy's Home given its historical importance and significant contribution to Jamaica.



Holness says the behaviour displayed by the boys is not unique to Alpha and questioned whether the Government had an intention of closing similar facilities across the island.



The Opposition leader says the Government is misguided if it believes shifting the policy to place children in foster care will mitigate anti-social behaviour. According to Holness, foster care is sometimes ineffective in preventing the development of deviance in children and can, in fact, be more damaging. He says children with ingrained anti-social behaviour need a particular level of structure in their care.



Suggesting that the Government was also seeking to take over private run homes, Holness says state-run homes is also expensive to operate and offer fewer services than a privately-run facility. He says it would be better for Government to maintain a privately-run model, which costs less and provides better services.



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