Leonard, Patrick and Dwayne, three children under state care, will never forget the love and kindness they received from virtual strangers during the Christmas holidays.
The three boys, who are one year and nine months, 12, and 14 years old respectively, were among a number of other wards of the state, who were successfully placed with families for the Christmas, through an initiative spearheaded by Public Defender, Howard Hamilton.
Mrs. Odence Rose, (centre), lovingly combs Dwayne’s hair while Patrick smilingly waits his turn. Mrs. Rose was a participant in the Public Defender’s Christmas Initiative held last year and the two boys spent Christmas with her and her family.
The children benefited from the good cheer they might have missed, had they spent the holidays outside of a normal family setting and it is hoped that as the Easter holiday approaches, more children will be given similar opportunities.
Conducted in association with the Child Development Agency (CDA), which has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of children, who have been made wards of the state, the Christmas initiative is designed to appeal to the kind-heartedness of families, to take in these special children for the holiday season.
Although not strictly within his mandate, the Public Defender, being a social advocate for change, has been trying to broaden his reach and complement the duties of his office.
Sophia Shaw and her husband Devon, first-time participants in the programme, which started some three years ago, welcomed Leonard into their home for the Christmas holidays.
Mrs. Shaw tells JIS News, that the couple’s one-year old son Johnathan, was loving towards Leonard and “Leonard attached himself to my husband”.
She says that overall it was really good to give, love and share with another child and they would definitely do it again. “Children love to feel appreciated and wanted and we as adults have a whole lot to give and should try to share especially at the Christmas season,” she states.
Mrs. Shaw informs that the family may adopt a child in the near future, between seven months and a year old, to nurture that child and teach him/ her good values. “It will be a fulfilling experience not only for the child but also for us as a family and the world eventually”, she says confidently.
She endorses the initiative to place children with families for the holidays, noting that it allows families to give love and a sense of worth to children, “who are growing up without fulfilling their true potential and purpose”.
“You cannot live if you have not fulfilled your potential or what you were born to do”, she points out.
Odence Rose, who has participated in the initiative over the past three years, describes the experience “as a delight” for herself, her husband and her mother. Her ‘children’, Dwayne and Patrick, “were real blessings to us,” she notes.
It was Dwayne’s second Christmas with the Rose’s and he is considered and treated like a member of the family so much so that her brother, who was visiting at the time from overseas, constantly asks for Dwayne whenever he telephones.
The programme, Mrs. Rose points out, gives the family an opportunity to share the joy of Christmas with children, who do not have a family setting and who would really appreciate being with a family for the season. “I would recommend that other families get involved because you are able to give of yourself and the children are also given an opportunity to learn healthy values and attitudes that they might not otherwise have been exposed to,” she says.
For December 2005, Mrs. Rose plans to start the process earlier in the hope of extending the time spent with the children. The Rose’s have no children of their own and this is their way of spreading love and joy to disadvantaged children.
“Mrs. Rose was like my real mother,” Dwayne shares with JIS News, “she took good care of me and Patrick as we went shopping, we went to Burger King and the supermarket. I helped to wash the dishes and tidied my room when I got up in the mornings.”
Dwayne expresses appreciation for everything the family has done for him and says it was a pleasure being with them. “The week spent with them was wonderful,” he says. Dwayne is a third former at a high school in the Corporate Area.
Also having high praises for the programme is Major Marie Polusca, Matron of the Salvation Army Nest Children’s Home. She says that it is very good for the children to go out in December and spend time with families, especially those children who are not fortunate enough to be with their relatives.
“I hope that the programme will continue not only at Christmas but also extend to Easter”, she says.
Meanwhile, Claudette Hemmings, South-East Regional Director for the CDA, lauds the programme, through which children were placed with 44 families last Christmas.
With regard to longer-term placement of the children, Mrs. Hemmings is appealing to more persons to step forward and be a part of the Foster Care Programme, which is utilized by the CDA for the placement of children who are on court orders. This programme allows government to find substitute families for those children, who desperately need to be protected, loved and cared for.
Persons wishing to get involved in foster care may contact the King Street offices of the CDA. “The family is the best place to bring up the future generation of the country’s leaders,” Mrs. Hemmings says.