Over 500 children in State care, ages 16 to 18 year benefited from the Child Development Agency’s inaugural National Exiting Care Expo held under the theme, “Stepping Stones for Success”.
The Expo which was conceptualised as a way to prepare youngsters for life after State care took place at the grounds of the Girls Guide Headquarters, located on 2 Waterloo Road in Kingston, on Wednesday (March 11).
The event saw children from across the Agency’s four regions (Western, Southern, South East and North East) being engaged in a number of workshop sessions, and benefiting from exhibits aimed at imparting information and services needed in preparing for independent living. The sessions looked at living arrangement; education; employment; financial management; health and lifestyle, and career development.
Speaking at the event, Minister of Youth and Culture, the Hon. Lisa Hanna in her comments encouraged the children to make the most of the opportunity being currently afforded to them, which will be useful when they exit State care.
“You have the potential to be successful men and women of tomorrow. So this is an opportunity for you to be aware of the possibilities that exists. You are being exposed to a number of career opportunities, because we want you to start choosing your career path wisely. Make sure you garner as much information as you can for future use,” Minister Hanna implored.
Highlighting the mandate of the Ministry and by extension the CDA, she said that the overall aim is to make sure that children who are in the care of the government are cared for and protected. She added that irrespective of the fact that the children were a part of the system, they could still reach their highest potential.
“See this experience as a stepping stone towards the right direction. Our job is to care for you and protect you; that means treating you as our own children, and providing you with opportunities that will equip you to become leaders of tomorrow,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer of the CDA, Mrs. Rosalee Gage-Grey in her remarks stated that the event which was formerly called Exodus 3.0 at the regional level, has been re-branded and is presently being held at the national level for the first time, as part of the Agency’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, currently being observed from (June 2014 to May 2015).
“The CDA firmly believes in the process of transition for children who are preparing to exit the State care system. We want to create a clear path for you to step into the future, hence the reason for staging such an important event,” she said.
Giving details on the transitional programme to assist children who are exiting the system, Mrs. Gage-Grey said the CDA has been assisting youngsters with accommodation, reuniting them with their families, providing them with educational opportunities, skills training and employment.
“We know that even when you reach 18, you still need our love, guidance and support, and this is what we are seeking to provide through this programme,” the CEO said.
Mrs. Gage-Grey encouraged the children to gather as much information as they could from the various organisations, adding, “Today is a day to chart a new course for your life and continue on your journey to success”.
Meanwhile, CDA’s Advisory Board Chairman, Mrs. Maxine Henry-Wilson in her remarks, reminded the youngsters of the importance of having set goals in their lives, and to work towards achieving them.
“We see you as our possibilities, because all of you have a purpose in life and can be role models for others to follow. It doesn’t matter where you are coming from; it is where you are going. Do not make your experience of the past shape who you are. You are securing your future, and the good thing is that you are in an era where there are countless opportunities that exist,” Mrs. Henry-Wilson said.
She also stressed the value of attaining an education or a skill, which will help them to be able to acquire a job to support their needs after leaving the care of the State.
“Stay focused. Start building a foundation for yourselves, right now. Make good choices that will lead you on a positive path. Have a plan for your life, and we will work with you every step of the way,” she told the youngsters.
Echoing the sentiments of the Minister and the CEO, Mrs. Henry-Wilson also encouraged the youth to grasp every possible opportunity that exists at the CDA, and importantly, garner as much information as they can from the days’ proceeding.
Giving an overview of the Exiting Care Programme, CDA’s Director of Children and Family Programmes, Audrey Budhi, said the Agency saw the need for staging such an event for the benefit of youngsters who are transitioning out of State care into the wider society.
“The programme was undertaken in an effort to bridge the gap for you our young people. It is intended to provide you with a holistic approach to the transition process, and to provide support for you our main priority as you prepare for adulthood,” she said.
She however implored them to have fun while being informed, and use the information that will be imparted from the various organisations wisely.
Past ward of the State, who is presently the Executive Director of Teens for Technology, Tamain Beckford, in his presentation encouraged the wards to have a plan in place for their lives, set measurable goals and work towards achieving them.
“You have the opportunity to be anything that you want to be, so make sure that you stay focused in school, and try and make your mark on the society. Set your selves apart from the rest, and always remember that no matter how far you get in life, always appreciate the CDA, and give back so that others will lead by your example,” he said.
Radio Personality, Jennifer ‘Jenny Jenny’ Small who chaired the opening ceremony at the event commended the Agency for its effort in helping to create a smooth transition for children you are preparing to exit the system.
“It’s amazing what the CDA is doing here for these youngsters, which goes to show that as a nation we believe in our children, and so we have to continue to assist them by providing the appropriate interventions that they need to achieve their dreams,” she said.
There were also several participating organisations providing information and services to the youngsters at the event, such as the Heart Trust/NTA; Ministry of Labour and Social Security; Electoral Office of Jamaica; Registrar General’s Department; Ministry of Health; Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation; International University of the Caribbean; University of the West Indies, Mona; Jamaica Defence Force; Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and others.
The event was capped off with performances by Clan Carthy Primary School, Silver Birds Steel Orchestra; Nah Laugh Dancers and a fashion show, organized by Dress for Success
Jamaica and was done by a team from the Agency.
The opening prayer was done by Placement Officer Rev. Calvin Matthews, and the closing ceremony was chaired by Children’s Officer in CDA’s North East Region, Ryan Hewitt. Team Leader for Hanover, Eric Vassell gave the vote of thanks.
Contact: CDA PR Unit