Centre for Adolescent Mothers Opens in Clarendon

Photo: Melroy Sterling Board Chairman of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), Theresa Campbell (centre); and Chief Technical Director, Office of the Prime Minister, Alison McLean (right), cut the ribbon to officially open a new centre for adolescent mothers on the grounds of the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon on Wednesday (Jan. 13). Looking on is Manager, Mandeville Centre of the WCJF, Deon Brown.

Story Highlights

  • The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) yesterday (January 13) opened a new facility on the grounds of the May Pen Hospital, to cater for adolescent mothers in the parish of Clarendon.
  • Over the past 15 years, the Foundation has been operating an outreach programme for adolescent mothers on the grounds of the Clarendon Health Department in Denbigh.
  • Dr. Simpson said the curriculum at the facility will focus on the physical, mental, social and academic development of adolescent mothers.

The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) yesterday (January 13) opened a new facility on the grounds of the May Pen Hospital, to cater for adolescent mothers in the parish of Clarendon.

Built at a cost of over $4 million, through support from various partners, the centre has a nursery, classroom, restroom, washroom and multi-purpose room.

There is also space for construction of another classroom to facilitate Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) lessons via Skype.

Over the past 15 years, the Foundation has been operating an outreach programme for adolescent mothers on the grounds of the Clarendon Health Department in Denbigh.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Executive Director of the WCJF, Dr. Zoe Simpson, noted that the number of young mothers served by the outreach programme has grown over the years,  hence the need for the additional space.

Dr. Simpson informed that between 2000 and 2015, the centre served about 475 adolescent mothers in Clarendon.  She said the figure does not include those who were not registered in the programme.

“What it says is that our precious little girls are becoming mothers much too early,” she said, stating that the national statistics show that 46,000 adolescent mothers have been served by the WCJF since its inception 37 years ago.

“Last year we registered across the island 1, 288 adolescent mothers. What is even more startling is the fact that only about 48 per cent of the total number of adolescent mothers are registered in the programme. What has happened to the 52 per cent, who do not access the programme of intervention,” she questioned.

The Executive Director said the best response to adolescent pregnancy in Jamaica “is to combine our resources and fix it.”

“If you are a parent then you must shoulder your responsibility and support your daughter with her pregnancy. Support her when she returns to school and needs the help with the baby so she can get her assignments done. Support her in her efforts to get up and to get on with her life,” she pleaded.

Dr. Simpson also called on churches and communities to assist in supporting the young mothers, noting that a survey done by the WCJF shows that many of them were once members of churches.

“Some of them would be strengthened along the path of completing their education if some church member would simply mentor this young lady so she becomes a better woman…a woman who can face her challenges because she would be empowered,” she pointed out.

“Our ultimate response has to be that we combine the little resources that we have in this country and fix this problem of adolescent pregnancy, not only in Clarendon but the entire Jamaica,” she stressed.

According to Dr Simpson, the WCJF is prepared to “go the extra mile to reduce adolescent pregnancies to zero.”

“As we pool our resources, 48 per cent of the adolescent mothers, who are not attending the women’s centre, will now rise to the occasion and recognise that there is a space for them within which they can continue their education,” she said.

“Those girls, who are presently attending the centre, will know that they can also return to school and complete their education and the other boys and girls, who have not yet become adolescent mothers and fathers, they will know that they must not  go out there and become adolescent parents,” she pointed out.

Dr. Simpson said the curriculum at the facility will focus on the physical, mental, social and academic development of adolescent mothers.

“Academic instruction is at the core of the programme – individual and group counselling because they must begin to understand themselves better. Contraceptive counselling is a big thing because what we want to do is to lower their chances of getting a second pregnancy,” she pointed out.

The Clarendon Branch of the WCJF was constructed with help from the HEART Trust/NTA, South East Regional Health Authority, Clarendon Health Department, Stewarts Hardware, and the May Pen Hospital.

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