• Feature
    Foster-parent, Lorna Lawrence (centre), with her four foster-children, at a church service in observance of Foster Care Week at the Ocho Rios Baptist Church, St. Ann, on February 10. Interacting with the children are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Rosalee Gage-Grey (left) and former State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green.
    Photo: Nickieta Sterling

    Story Highlights

    • In 2015, Lorna and Michael Lawrence decided to become foster-parents to a four-year-old boy who was placed in the childcare and protection system.
    • The couple, from Islington, St. Mary, wanted to provide a nurturing home environment for the youngster.
    • They had just returned to the island after living in the United States (US) for some 40 years, where they had fostered 15 children, and decided to respond to a call from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) for Jamaicans to foster children in State care.

    In 2015, Lorna and Michael Lawrence decided to become foster-parents to a four-year-old boy who was placed in the childcare and protection system.

    The couple, from Islington, St. Mary, wanted to provide a nurturing home environment for the youngster.

    They had just returned to the island after living in the United States (US) for some 40 years, where they had fostered 15 children, and decided to respond to a call from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) for Jamaicans to foster children in State care.

    “I started being a foster-parent [in Jamaica] after seeing a message on JIS that there was a need for foster-parents. My husband and I decided to do this because we realise that there are children who are in need,” she says.

    Over the next four years, the couple took more children into their home and now foster four boys, whose ages range from five to eight years.

    Mrs. Lawrence tells JIS News that the journey has been “fulfilling”, and they have no regrets about opening up their home and hearts to the boys.

    “Our child is already grown and we have become grandparents, and now we are parents again to four boys; it has been a joy,” she says.

    Mrs. Lawrence says she and her husband believe in the importance of the family structure to the emotional and psychological well-being of children.

    “We did this because we have the place to raise them. We see that we can bring happiness, peace and joy to a group of children. For me, it gives me fulfilment. It gives me joy to see that they are living with us,” she says.

    The couple and the boys have developed a strong bond and Mrs. Lawrence speaks fondly about them and their unique personalities.

    “The children in my care have grown a lot. I have seen where the youngest one decides that he wants to be the boss because he tries to emulate what we do. The older ones, they are still changing. We try to nurture them and give them as much love as we can, so they can become good citizens of Jamaica,” she says.

    Mrs. Lawrence hopes that the couple’s involvement in the lives of the boys “will plant a seed that takes root and will grow within each boy, producing amazing results in years to come”.

    She is encouraging other Jamaicans to “take the leap” in fostering a child.

    “It is important for the growth of the nation. One of the children you foster may become the prime minister; you never know. So go out, go to your area, find out what you can do and help these children, because there is a need,” she says.

    Up to September 2018, there were 4,443 children in the childcare and protection system. Of that number, 952 are in foster care.

    Chief Executive Officer of CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, says Jamaica’s foster care programme helps to provide a safe, structured family setting for children in State care.

    “Undoubtedly, the family unit is one of the most influential institutions known to man. It is here that our youngest are cared for and life is maintained. It is also within this entity that the physical and psychosocial needs are net, where the norms of society are taught to and children are groomed into valuable citizens,” she notes.

    “Above all, it is the family that provides love, support nurture and security and a sense of wholeness, a sense of one’s place in the world. This is the environment that these children need,” she adds.

    Mrs. Gage-Grey calls for more Jamaicans to embrace foster care stating that it is vital to national development.

    National Foster Care Week 2019 was observed from February 10 to 15 under the theme ‘Give Love, Inspire Hope, Foster a Child’.

    The objective was to raise awareness about the foster care programme and to encourage more Jamaicans to take a child into their homes.