JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Youth and Culture has joined hands with the Ministry of Health to provide medical assistance for wards of the state with disabilities.
  • Doctors now visit the children’s homes, write prescriptions, and compile files. Medication is sourced through the Ministry of Health for severe cases.
  • The move is part of continued measures by the Government to improve provisions for children in state care. More than 500 children living in 10 state-run homes across the island, have a disability.

The Ministry of Youth and Culture has joined hands with the Ministry of Health to provide medical assistance for wards of the state with disabilities.

Doctors now visit the children’s homes, write prescriptions, and compile files. Medication is sourced through the Ministry of Health for severe cases.

The move is part of continued measures by the Government to improve provisions for children in state care. More than 500 children living in 10 state-run homes across the island, have a disability.

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, in emphasizing the importance of the intervention, noted that often, these children, particularly those with severe disabilities, are abandoned by their parents, because they cannot afford the cost of adequate care and treatment.

“Many of these children remain in the homes from birth until they die because they have no one to come back for them…oftentimes the parents leave them, because the medication for a child with epilepsy or cerebral palsy or extreme autism is so expensive that they are not able to give it to them to put them in a state where you can work with them,” she said.

The Minister was speaking on the topic: ‘Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities,’ at the ninth annual Caribbean Child Research Conference held on Wednesday, November 5, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

The Youth Minister said it is important to have an open and honest conversation about caring for children with disabilities, in order to effectively address the issue.

She said not only is there an emotional fall-out, when, for example, a mother has to care for a child with a disability, but there is also adverse economic effects when this parent is the only breadwinner.

Miss Hanna argued that children with disabilities should be seen as a gift, rather than a curse, and is encouraging Jamaicans to volunteer at children’s homes to assist in their care, as well as that of other wards.

“Work with the caregivers because it is not easy, especially in an environment where the rest of society still has a disdain when you bring a child forward, who is very different,” she noted.

The regional conference, which is being staged over two days, is organised by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), University of the West Indies, in collaboration with the Caribbean Child Development Centre, Early Childhood Commission, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Ministry of Education, Office of the Children’s Registry, CHASE Fund, and the Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child.

Among the topics being explored are: Legal issues for children with disabilities; Policy framework for children with disabilities; A system of care approach to mental health issues of Jamaican children; Teaching and learning: Children with special needs; Adolescents with intellectual disabilities in transition from care; and Inclusion of children with special educational needs and disabilities into the mainstream primary level schools;

Sponsors include the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.