It is said that the level of social advancement in any country can be measured by how the young and elderly of that country are treated and cared for.
However, it must be realised that Governments can only put laws, policies and the necessary institutions in place for the proper care of citizens. The rest is left to the people to uphold those laws, maintain policies, and see to proper administration within established institutions.
The Child Development Agency (CDA), an organisation under the Ministry of Health, is one such government institution, aimed at properly caring for the nation’s children who fall under its jurisdiction. It is guided by the mission statement “to achieve the holistic development of children through the creation, implementation, coordination and regulation of programmes and policies which meet Jamaica’s obligation to international standards for children”.
The Blossom Gardens Child Care Facility (BGCCF), located in Appleton Hall, Montego Bay, has been in existence since 1975. It is operated by the CDA, which caters to children ages 0-7 years, who have become the responsibility of the state for various reasons.
A pictoral view of the grounds of the Blossom Gardens Child Care Facility, in Appleton Hall Drive, Montego Bay
Psychologists say that those are the formative years of a child’s life, when they develop character and an outlook on life, so the love, care and attention showed to them during those years, has a great deal to do with the type of person that child turns out to be.
Manager of the BGCCF, Mrs. Paola Genas-Brown, told JIS News, that with approximately 53 children resident at the facility as at April 26, the 35 members of staff have to play the roles of parents to them: Staff try to replicate a home environment for the children, where-in they are shown parental love and close attention is paid to their education.
“There is no differentiation, irrespective of class, colour, whatever, they (the children) all get the same treatment,” she stated.
With children being sent to the facility, either through social workers recommendations, being brought by the police or through court orders, Mrs. Genas-Brown admits that the number of children fluctuates, but the maximum capacity that can be accommodated is 60 children. She points out that in keeping with the CDA mission statement, every effort is made to give holistic care to the children.
“The children are grouped according to age, and according to their abilities, and so we have a pre-school here and that starts for the two year olds, and we also have a basic school here, in which we have from three year olds up,” she stated.
“We try to ensure that their educational needs are met, the teachers that are here are trained teachers, they (the children) go through the same routine as the children in schools, they are taught all the academic subjects and extra curricula activities are included. The teachers also attend workshops once per month, as required by the Ministry of Education,” she pointed out.
When asked about public support for the BGCCF, Mrs. Genas-Brown, an eight-year veteran as Manager of the institution, lauded the service clubs and the Indian community in Montego Bay for their support. She added that a few local private businesses, individuals and some international groups also make contributions from time to time. She was emphatic, however that more volunteer help is needed and would be greatly appreciated.
“We would love to have volunteers coming in to assist with the children, because you know they are young children and so they are not able to do as much for themselves as they would have liked, and so we would love for people to volunteer,” she stated.
She said that the volunteers the facility have been receiving over the years, are usually only for short stints.
President of the Kiwanis Club of Montego Freeport, in Montego Bay, Mr. Donovan Evans, in an interview with JIS News, stated that his club will always support the BGCCF, as the club is committed to serving the children and the community, as part of its international mandate. He explained that the members of his club are always enthused to doing service at the facility, as they are always very motivated by the way the staff treat the children.