Some schools skep­ti­cal about ac­cept­ing chil­dren in state care

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer

SE­RI­OUS CON­CERNS are be­ing raised about the level of dis­crim­i­na­tion that some school ad­min­is­tra­tors dis­play to­wards chil­dren who are wards of the State.

The is­sue was raised by Au­drey Budhi, di­rec­tor of chil­dren and fam­ily pro­grammes at the Child Pro­tec­tion and Fam­ily Ser­vices Agency, who high­lighted the in­ci­dents of bul­ly­ing that chil­dren con­tin­ued to face. This was in ad­di­tion to chal­lenges that the agency en­coun­tered when it in­ter­acted with some schools.

“Bul­lied chil­dren are seen as dif­fer­ent chil­dren. They are lon­ers, they are shy. They come from shel­tered homes, or they are liv­ing with disability,” Budhi said as she ad­dressed the In­ter­na­tional Safe­guard­ing Chil­dren con­fer­ence, which was held at the Ja­maica Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in down­town Kingston, yes­ter­day.

“What we found out is that when our chil­dren come from a chil­dren’s home, a place of safety, or any other vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­nity, they are iden­ti­fied and sin­gled out, even by some school ad­min­is­tra­tors. They don’t want to take them. Our of­fi­cers have to be go­ing to these places re­peat­edly, beg­ging and try­ing to be­friend them. That can­not be,” Budhi de­clared.

The di­rec­tor added, “Even among our­selves (adults), we who should be pro­tect­ing these chil­dren, they are be­ing pushed away. As a re­sult, they (chil­dren) be­come shy and they can’t ne­go­ti­ate for them­selves.”

State min­is­ter in the youth min­istry Floyd Green echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, stat­ing that the Govern­ment was work­ing to cre­ate more plat­forms from which chil­dren could ex­press their con­cerns. He noted that dis­cus­sions he had been hav­ing thus far with chil­dren is­land­wide point to se­ri­ous is­sues of dis­crim­i­na­tion, par­tic­u­larly when wards of the State seek em­ploy­ment.

“They (chil­dren in state care) said, ‘Quite frankly, min­is­ter, one of the prob­lems that we have is that when we leave state care and we try to find em­ploy­ment, and the prospec­tive em­ployer looks on our ré­sumé and sees that we would have spent time in a home, quite quickly, the in­ter­view changes,’“Green ex­plained.

“It (in­ter­view) takes a dif­fer­ent tone, and quite of­ten, they are treated as if they are trou­ble­mak­ers who have come to seek em­ploy­ment just to give trou­ble. They raised the level of dis­crim­i­na­tion that they face in the so­ci­ety,” Green re­ported.

RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Pro­fes­sor Henk Par­men­tier (sec­ond left), a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the World Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Fam­ily Doc­tors (WONCA), greets (from left) Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of Hear The Chil­dren’s Cry; Pa­tri­cia McKen­zie-Thomas, di­rec­tor, One Step For­ward Con­sul­tancy, a UK-based so­cial work com­pany; Anusha An­thony, vice con­sul for Ja­maica and The Ba­hamas at the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sion; and Carla Fran­cis-Edie, so­cial de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant. They were at­tend­ing the In­ter­na­tional Safe­guard­ing Chil­dren con­fer­ence held at the Ja­maica Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in down­town Kingston on Thurs­day.

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