Prime Minister Bruce Golding has set up a team to make recommendations to help the government improve the administration of children’s homes throughout Jamaica. The team is to report its findings to him by the end of August.
At a meeting with heads of both private and state run agencies, earlier this week at Jamaica House, the Prime Minister said, “We are going to do everything possible to influence those programmes we regard as critical to the care of children who are in the custody of the State or who are in institutions that are endorsed and supported by the State…I will also want to get communication from the authorities and the operators of the homes on what progress we have made on the implementation of the Keating Report.”
The Keating Report of 2003 noted the then status of children’s homes and made recommendations about child assessment, standards of care and the licensing of homes among other issues.
The Prime Minister recommended that the advisory team should include representatives from the Child Development Agency (CDA), The Children’s Advocate, a representative each from a government children’s home and a private children’s home and a member from the juvenile justice system and the Ministry of Health.
Executive Director of the Child Development Agency, Alison Anderson, makes a point to Minister of Health, Ruddy Spencer during the Prime Minister’s meeting on July 21 to listen to the concerns of both private and state-run children’s homes. An advisory team has been set up to look into the concerns of the homes and to return with recommendations to address these issues. The Prime Minister will meet with the group again in August.
Sister Susan Frazer, President of the Association of Private Children’s Homes said, “We need to work together for the best solutions…there is so much paperwork to fill out, it takes away from the care of the children at the end of the day.”
The 47-member strong association, which includes well-known Church organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Mustard Seed Communities for special needs children, reported among its chief concerns the need for government to sign off on budgets for the homes before the start of the financial year; and that there be a reinstatement of standards of care based on the needs of the children in residence. The homes currently receive an average government subvention of $258,000 per child, a little over a half of what public homes receive.
The home managers also noted that those schools with established training programmes, such as St. John Bosco and Alpha Boys Home, have asked HEART Trust to assist with having their courses accredited.
The Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, said that her office had been seeking clarity in the law with regards to the removal of parental rights from persons who had abandoned their children but who would also not release them for adoption.
The manager for the City of Refuge Children’s Home in Content Gap, St Andrew presented the Prime Minister with a gift of vacuum packed coffee beans branded with the name of the home. The home aims to expose the children to all aspects of coffee farming, processing and packaging. The Prime Minister indicated that he would be visiting that home soon.