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Director of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) South East Region, Robert Williams
Photo: Contributed Photo

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) South East Region is undertaking an initiative aimed at empowering boys in the childcare system.

Dubbed ‘Saving Our Boys’, the one-year programme, launched on July 25, is in response to the increasing number of boys in State care who are exhibiting deviant behaviours.

It involves partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Young Professionals, which is providing contributions in cash and kind as well as mentorship.

Saving Our Boys employs a variety of interventions, with the goal of fostering positive behaviours and attitudes among the youth participants in order to achieve better outcomes.

These include empowerment sessions, extracurricular activities (sports, monthly field trips), as well as a mentorship component that seeks to assist participants in learning the skills to build healthy relationships and establish positive connections and attachments.

Saving Our Boys is targeted at boys aged 10 to 17 years and those exiting childcare facilities, in order to ensure a successful transition from State care to independent living, thereby reducing risk factors such as unemployment, substance abuse and involvement in crime.

It will expose participants to different vocations as well as unearth and strengthen talents, skills and interests.

Information provided by the CPFSA indicates that, each year, almost 300 boys, aged 18 years and older who leave the child protection sector do not properly integrate into society.

Additionally, studies have shown that girls in State care are outperforming boys academically, indicating the need to provide interventions to ensure these boys are being meaningfully engaged to improve their development outcomes.

“The boys are very different from the girls. They are internalising their issues. For example, if some of them have a situation of trauma that they can’t fully manage, they don’t talk about it. They will, instead, take to smoking and joining gangs,” Regional Director, CPFSA South East Region, Robert Williams, tells JIS News.

“We are trying to see how we can help these boys. One of the things this project does is it seeks to ignite hope. It also seeks to establish connections and attachments,” he adds.

Mr. Williams tells JIS News that originally, the programme was intended for the boys “to go out of the facilities to do things and meet people”, but adjustments have been made to facilitate coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety protocols established by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

As such, field trips have been suspended and virtual empowerment sessions are being held via Zoom.

Children from the SOS Children’s Village, Maxfield Park Children’s Home and Sunbeam Boys’ Home have been participating in the sessions, the first of which took place in-house on July 25 at the Maxfield Park home and was attended by 19 boys.

The second was held virtually on November 21, with 26 boys in attendance.

“We have [representatives] from different organisations speaking to them, telling them about the different career opportunities. We are seeking to mix those with the cognitive and educational sessions. That is how we are going to have to do things a bit differently until we can have the boys go out again,” Mr. Williams notes.

The sessions are also attended by representatives from the CPFSA, members of the Kiwanis Young Professionals Kingston, as well as former wards of the State.

Mr. Williams says the intention is to continue with small groups of boys in order to ensure that each receive personalised attention. He says the number of participants will be increased over time.

He notes that discussions are under way with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) and other entities to participate in the initiative, adding: “We are still a work in progress. We continue to look at places of interest that can positively impact the boys.”

Mr. Williams says an assessment of the participants will be conducted to determine the impact of the programme.

“We want to find out how the empowerment, the exposure and the connections that we are trying to create for the boys are affecting their behavior and how they feel about themselves. We want to use this programme to affect their cognitive processes and empower them,” the CPFSA Officer says.

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