Foster Parents Lauded
CEO of the Child Development Agency Carla Francis-Edie recently lauded the island’s 800 foster parents for their invaluable contribution to the development of the nation’s children in State care.
The Agency last week held a number of functions across the island to recognize the work of the foster parents as part of its observance of National Foster Care Recognition Week held from February 10 to 16, 2013.
Appreciation functions were held for foster parents across the island. Foster parents in the South East Region (Kingston and St. Andrew; St. Catherine and St.Thomas) were treated at a function held at Tropical Elegance on Herb McKinley Drive in Kingston; while those in St. Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon were honoured at Miguel’s Restaurant, and those in the North East Region (Portland, St. Ann and St. Mary) were also celebrated in a ceremony held at the Ocho Rios Resource Centre in St. Ann. An appreciation and enhancement workshop was held for parents in St. James, Westmoreland, Trelawny and Hanover.
Speaking at the function in Kingston on Friday, Mrs. Edie said: “This function is a small token of our appreciation, because we cannot truly repay you for all your selflessness, your sacrifice and commitment to developing the young lives in your care.”
Mrs. Edie noted that there was a parenting gap in the society reflected in the fact that the OCR figures indicated that neglect was one of the most prevalent infringements committed against children.
“The truth is that many parents did not learn how to be parents – they may have been young themselves when they had children, or their parents were not positive examples for them. Children are also exposed to negative influences from our culture, and in many instances communities turn a blind eye to abuse, abandonment and neglect,” Mrs. Edie said.
While the society must take steps to deal with those parents who were not fullfiling their responsibilities, Mrs. Edie encouraged other persons to stand in the gap by getting involved in the foster care programme.
The CEO told the parents that the Agency would continue to work as partners with them, adding that representation has been made to enhance the benefits to the parents and to have open lines of communication with them. She also thanked the CDA staff who work with the foster parents, urging them to strive for excellence.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Mr. Sydney Bartley reminisced about the days when the village raised the child, Mr. Bartley noted that nowadays parents faced significantly more challenges that when he was growing up.
Thanking the foster parents for their sterling service, Mr. Bartley pledged the Ministry’s continued support and encouraged others in society to get involved in the programme.
Foster care is the process by which a child is placed temporarily with an adult who is not his or her biological parent. There are currently some 920 children in foster care.
President of the Kingston and St. Andrew Chapter of the Foster Parents Association also shared words of encouragement with her fellow foster parents. She noted that even though foster care is temporary, many of the parents have dedicated themselves to the children throughout their lives.
Foster parents from the St. Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon were reminded of just how special they were at a Valentine luncheon organized especially for them by officers of the Southern region at Miguel’s restaurant in Santa Cruz.
Grace Ann Stewart McFarlane, Regional Director was unreserved in her praise of foster parents in the region, citing the longevity of care relationships as signals of the strength of the programme in the region.
“I know the CDA could not pay all of you for the work that you do with these children,” she said as she addressed the group,” Mrs. McFarlane said.
The luncheon which was a true family event saw foster children participating in the appreciation process by reading poems of gratitude and love to the foster parents and participating in the delivery of awards to the parents who had opened their hearts and homes to them.
Foster parents themselves contributed to the event by sharing their experiences of fostering and encouraging each other in the task of parenting vulnerable children.
“Child care facilities in Jamaica, can’t accommodate the hundreds of children in need of care; we foster parents bridge the gap,” said Imogene Lettman a long-time foster parent.
“The foster care programme provides significant benefit to the children who we admit into our homes; one is that their self esteem is improved when they are part of a family that cares,” she said.
All foster parents in attendance at the luncheon were participants in the programme for more than 10 years, and were happily still parenting children in state care. Guest speaker Mr. Arnaldo Allen, a foster parent himself reinforced Mrs. Lettman’s assertion of the positive outcomes of foster care on a child’s life, proudly enumerating the achievements of his foster children who are in one of the leading universities on the island. Bringing smiles all around, Mr. Allen’s address to the foster parents was a great source of encouragement, stirring parental commitment and, an excellent epilogue to this foster parents’ luncheon.
Contact: Prudence N. Barnes/Dahlia Cole