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The Parents’ Places, established by the Ministry of Education, are providing critical support and guidance to parents as they undertake the increasingly difficult task of child rearing.

These centres, considered one-stop-shops, provide a comfortable and attractive place for parents to go for information, courses, workshops, mentoring, recreational activities, income support training  and when possible, diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Parents also learn about their responsibilities under the law and the consequences of not fulfilling them, particularly as it relates to abuse or neglect.

Chief Education Officer, Grace McLean, said the centres aim to assist in providing ongoing support to parents across the island in a more coordinated way.

“Through these locations, parents can access resources on education and also for us to engage them into various kinds of activities that they will be able to support their children in a more effective manner,” she said.

She contends that the initiative is “an excellent idea,” which will only lead to greater parental support for the nation’s children.

There are seven centres up and running across the island.  They are located at the: All Saints Anglican Church, Kingston; Clarendon Early Childhood Resource Centre, Four Paths; DRB Grant Early Childhood Resource Centre, Montego Bay; Hope for Children Development Company, Kingston; RISE Life Management, Kingston; The Source, Savanna-la-Mar; and the YMCA, Kingston.

The Ministry is looking to put in 160 more by the start of the new academic year in September and these will be situated mainly in schools, community centres and at parish libraries.

The Chief Education Officer said that a review will also be undertaken to address weaknesses and improve effectiveness in the operations of the centres.

Mrs. McLean informed that initially, parents were reluctant to use the facilities; however, after several meetings with the relevant stakeholders, numerous strategies were developed to facilitate increased use.

“We decided that we would go into the communities and have discussions with the parents and meet with them…We have found that working out very well and so we have them now coming out and giving us ideas as to areas of weaknesses that they have that they would want us to focus on,” she stated.

In addition, she informed, “we are training the parents and the teachers and we are ensuring that the children are sensitised so we are doing a series of training sessions, which is currently ongoing.”

Funding support for the Parents’ Places is being provided by United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) and the United States Agency for International Development(USAID).

“They are assisting us in providing basic equipment for the parents’ places for example posters, charts, computers, and television sets etcetera. So, we are very happy for the support from those international partners,” Ms. McLean said, noting that the Ministry has responsibility for the operational costs.

In supporting the initiative, Vice President of Parenting Partners Caribbean, Janet Brown, said the centres create a base where people can go for information or sessions over time to reinforce their innate parenting skills and strengthen their role in shaping the future of the next generation.

The Parents’ Place, she explained, “is a familiar neighbourhood place, which welcomes and supports all parents and families to raise their children well. This is a universal kind of approach…it is more than a building”.

She notes that the services offered are varied and flexible and can be attached or linked to a wide range of public and private services, such as health clinics, schools, libraries, social service agencies and churches.

Coordinator of the Parents’ Place at the Source in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Virginia Turner, said it has been “quite a rewarding experience” working with the parents in the area.

“We are working with parents from four challenged communities in and around Savanna-la-Mar and the sessions we have had so far have been very rewarding, and the parents enjoy the interaction and the sharing,” she said.

Ms. Turner informed that resources available to parents at The Source include HEART certified training courses, as well as a literacy and numeracy course.

“There’s also a learning readiness programme, where parents with children between 0 -3 are taught how to be their child’s first teacher,” she said.

She, however, pointed to the need for more parents to come out and access the services of the centre.

“The greatest challenge I would say is, the inconsistency of the parents, especially those who attend the literacy classes. They do not always appear on time. And I’m a bit disappointed with the number of parents who have taken up the offer. I think it is taking a while for persons to get used to the idea that they have all this here at their doorstep,” she noted.

Carlene Narcisse, who works with the Parent’s Place at All Saints Anglican Church in Kingston, said critical support is being provided at the facility.

“We have parenting programmes, where we teach them to be better parents…we have GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) classes going on and we have CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) classes,” she said.

She notes that the church has been conducting parenting workshops for some time now and is excited about expanding its offerings.

Any community group, private or public organisation, non-government or faith-based organisation may apply to become a Parents’ Place; however, certain criteria must be met before an organisation can receive this designation.

Persons may also acquire additional information on the Ministry of Education’s website at: www.moey.gov.jm

Contact: Chris Patterson