All Woman

Hanna announces big plans for kids in State care

Friday, May 30, 2014    

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THE Government says it will begin implementing several targeted interventions to improve conditions for children and adolescents, especially those in State care, during the 2014/15 fiscal year.

These include the phased implementation of a child case management system; legislative reforms; transformation of the Maxfield Park Children's Home as a model care child facility; and therapy and counselling sessions.

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna made the announcement during the media launch of the Child Development Agency's (CDA) 10th anniversary, at the agency's downtown Kingston offices on Wednesday.

She said that the Child Case Management System is designed to maintain accurate records of children taken into State custody at places of safety, until their departure from these institutions.

"You can monitor their academic records, their medical records, their extra-curricular records, their parents, all the details (and) you can also trace whether or not they have behavioural problems," the minister said.

The system, which will cost more than $50 million to implement, is slated for roll-out over the next three years, and will facilitate information sharing among the ministry's agencies, the CDA, the Office of the Children's Registry, and Office of the Children's Advocate.

This will also be extended to other child service entities, such as the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse and Children's Court.

The minister said this will assist case workers manage their loads more efficiently and keep better records of their children.

With regard to the transformation of the Maxfield Park Children's Home as a model facility, Hanna said "new dorms (will be established); and our therapeutic centre will also be there as well for children who need more counselling", adding that staff training will also be undertaken.

Maxfield Park Children's Home is one of 59 residential care institutions for children currently in operation, of which 50 are owned and operated by private interests, including faith-based organisations, with significant sponsorship from the Government.

Hanna pointed out that while the home is designed to accommodate close to 200 children, there are less than 100 youngsters resident at the facility.

The minister said that several pieces of legislation, including the Child Care and Protection Act, and adoption laws were under review.

"It is a very inter-connected approach to make sure that our children are taken care of, so we will continue to check the boxes, which we have been doing," she said.

She urged the staff of the CDA and all the other agencies that cater to the needs of children to continue playing a vital role in the development of the nation's children.

"At the end of the day, what we would like to see is a Jamaica where children are productive, where children feel loved, where children are disciplined and if they do have to come to State care, they would have been proud to do so, because at the end of the day it would have been a good experience for them," the minister added.

There are close to 6,000 children in State care at public and private children's homes, and in foster care programmes.

The year-long activities to commemorate the CDA's 10th anniversary begin on June 1 at the Boulevard Open Bible Church. Other activities include: lecture series, walk/runathon, awards banquet, concert and talent competition exposition.

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