Jamaicans, who plan to leave their children behind to seek opportunities abroad, are being urged to prepare their children for the event.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative, Robert Fuderich, said that parents have a responsibility to prepare children for the effects of migration, as well as to protect them as best as possible from the negative effects.
Mr. Fuderich was delivering the keynote address at a graduation ceremony for parents, who participated in a parenting programme organised by HelpAge International in collaboration with Hope for Children held on January 12 at the St. Andrew Technical High School in Kingston.
The parenting programme was part of the European Commission and United Nations (EC-UN) ‘Joint Migration and Development Initiative’.
The UNICEF Representative cited a baseline study, conducted by HelpAge International and Hope for Children, which showed that some 60 per cent of children are not informed about their parent’s plans to migrate until after or close to the time of the event.
“This is a life changing situation. It may be easy for you, but think about that child left behind. They need to know and understand what is happening to them, talk to them, be honest, explain the situation,” he advised.
Mr. Fuderich said the international organisation was very concerned with the effects of migration on children.
“We know that children, who are left behind don’t always have much close supervision as they need, so they may not do so well in school as they should. Sometimes, children with no supervision and unrestricted freedom at home have a hard time even going to school, have a hard time sitting still in school and have a hard time learning the rules of school,” he remarked.
He informed that a study conducted by a local psychologist found that 60 per cent of the delinquent teenagers at two correctional institutions had mothers who migrated.
He told the graduates that, “it doesn’t mean that if you migrate your children will end up in correctional institutions, but it does mean that it points to a vulnerability and something that we need to be very, very conscious of.”
Mr. Fuderich further remarked that studies have also shown that children, who are left behind by their parents are usually easy targets for sexual exploitation, particularly the girls. “Emotionally, the children left behind are hurting and they act out in ways that are rude or rebellious. If not supervised, they might end up with the wrong friends, abusing drugs or joining a gang,” he said.
The UNICEF representative however, noted that the effects of migration on the family are not all negative as research also shows that parents, who migrate, are often placed in a better position financially to provide for their families.
“They are able to send back money, which helps to cover important expenses and even provides opportunities that the children may never have had if they didn’t have that,” he stated.
He informed that the baseline study, conducted by HelpAge International and Hope for Children in the communities involved in the parenting programme, revealed that 70 per cent of the money received from overseas was placed in savings. “This is good news and could have a very positive impact, if this investment is being made to help children who are left behind over the long-term,” he said.
Some 600 parents, who successfully completed the parenting programme, in addition to 80 persons, who received small business training as part of the initiative, were presented with certificates at Wednesday’s graduation ceremony.
The participants were drawn from three communities downtown Kingston – Whitfield Town, Rose Town and Greenwich Town.
Assistant Executive Director, Hope for Children, Venesse Morrison-Leon, said the training aimed to “enhance the protective factors that help to reduce the involvement of youth in crime and violence, namely parenting and employment opportunities” and to “minimise the effects of migration on families left behind in Jamaica.”
Programme Officer, HelpAge International, Julian McKoy Davis, said that a key objective was to reduce the lack of income and employment opportunities that families who are affected by migration often face, by increasing access to social assistance programmes.
“The project is multigenerational in responding to the impact of migration on children, young adults, middle aged individuals and older persons by increasing their access to information, facilitating the preparation for migration for potential migrants, and also their families who will remain in Jamaica,” she informed.
“The project also seeks to increase awareness and access to available social assistance programmes, and also increase livelihood opportunities and sources of income through skills development,” she added.
Samuel Bailey, a parent, who participated in the programme, said he benefitted tremendously from the training. “It has helped me to be more patient and tolerant with my children. I talk to them more gently and I learn how to compliment them and boost their self esteem,” he said.
The 65-year old father, said he has also benefitted from computer classes through the programme, which has helped to bridge the technology gap between him and his children.
The EC-UN initiative is being conducted under the theme ‘Mitigating the Negative Impact of Migration on the Families Left Behind’. Some 1,300 people have benefitted from the project since its inception in August 2009.